Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Decree on the Functions of the Deputy Chairmen of the Council Of People’s Commissars and of the Council of Labour and Defence[1]

Written: 11 April, 1922
First Published: 1928; Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 2nd Printing, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973, Volume 33, pages 335-343
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

I. The General And Main Functions Of The Deputy Chairmen

1. The main functions of the Deputy Chairmen, for which they are particularly responsible and to which all their other functions must be subordinated, are to exercise executive control over the fulfilment of decrees, laws and decisions; to reduce the staffs of Soviet government offices and supervise the reorganisation of their business on proper and rational lines, and to combat bureaucratic methods and red tape.

The ensuing gives these main functions in detail or supplements them in minor particulars.

It is the duty of the Deputy Chairmen:

2. To ensure that no question concerning Soviet affairs is discussed by other bodies, government or Party (Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, Political Bureau and Organising Bureau of the Central Committee of the WC.P., and so forth, without exception), without the knowledge and participation of the Deputy Chairmen.

3. To relieve the Council of People’s Commissars and the Council of Labour and Defence as far as possible of minor matters, part (and most) of which should be settled by the departmental administrations and part (in urgent and exceptionally important cases) by the Deputy Chairmen themselves.

4. To ensure by strict supervision that the executive sessions of the Council of Labour and Defence and particularly of the Narrow Council of People’s Commissars shall not assume more functions than are absolutely necessary, shall not complicate their duties and functions, nor permit their functions to become bureaucratically inflated and hypertrophied; they must demand more self-reliance and more responsibility from every People’s Commissar and every government department.

5. To compel the People’s Commissars and independent government departments to administer their affairs on their own responsibility in accordance with their prescribed rights and duties.

6. To see to it that the degree of responsibility, primarily of members of Coflegiums and of the most important Soviet officials, and then of all Soviet officials, shall be precisely and individually defined; to combat relentlessly the prevailing haziness and vagueness concerning each individual’s duties and the complete lack of responsibility resulting from this.

7. To become personally acquainted with a certain number of Soviet officials not only of the highest rank, but primarily the medium and lower officials, by summoning them to the centre and, wherever possible, by visiting government offices in Moscow and the provinces, so as to test and choose men, and also to really improve the machinery of Soviet government.

8. To give priority to those People’s Commissariats, their departments and offices which for a specific period acquire exceptional importance, and to render them the maximum of assistance in the way of personnel, resources, the personal direction of the Deputy Chairmen, etc.

II. Specific Questions Concerning The Work Of The Deputy Chairmen

9. The Deputy Chairmen should devote about nine-tenths

of their efforts to the People’s Commissariats concerned with economic affairs and one-tenth to the rest.

10. Financial questions are in the forefront for the immediate future and the Deputy Chairmen should devote most attention to them.

11. A particularly vital matter is the introduction of a system of bonuses to be paid to Soviet employees in proportion to the turnover and profits of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade, the co-operative societies and other trading organisations.

Systematic efforts must be made to study the bonus system of payment to all Soviet employees in general and devise measures for applying it.

12. All work now proceeding for the purpose of forming a separate People’s Commissariat of Internal Trade, or of turning these functions over to the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade or the Supreme Economic Council, should he stopped. The Council of Labour and Defence should set up a special Internal Trade Commission which shall be furnished with the smallest possible secretarial staff, and the only local organs of which shall be the gubernia economic conferences.

13. It is extremely important to supervise the activities of the state trusts with a view to seeking those that are tolerably well organised among the bulk of badly organised ones, and steadily closing down the latter; to investigate the role played (actually) by the Communists on the management boards of the state trusts; to ascertain who is really responsible for the conduct of affairs and for efficiency in conducting affairs.

14. Each Deputy Chairman should undertake to organise one or two exemplary departments, or offices, of any given People’s Commissariat to enable him to arrive at a standard size of staffs, verify the correctness of this standard and establish the best methods of conducting and supervising affairs.

The methods of work, methods of improving efficiency, and the methods of supervision employed in these few really exemplary offices should later be gradually introduced into all Soviet offices.

In view of the exceptional importance of this question, and in view of the stubborn resistance of the Soviet bureaucrats, who want to cling to the old bureaucratic methods, there will have to be a persistent struggle to create a few exemplary offices as a means of tightening up and testing the rest. By agreement with the bodies concerned (the Central Committee of the Soviet Office Employees’ Union, the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions, the Labour Institute, etc., etc.) and under the supervision of the Deputy Chairmen the best of the latest literature on the organisation of labour and on management, especially the American and German, should be translated and published.

15. It is necessary—lif at first only in a very few government offices—to supervise the redistribution of Communists in Soviet offices and to see to it that Communists occupy only such posts (at the very top as well as the very bottom of the hierarchy) as enable them really to watch the progress of work, really to combat bureaucracy and red tape, really to secure an immediate amelioration of the conditions and improvement in the lot of those unfortunate citizens who are compelled to have dealings with our utterly inefficient Soviet machinery of administration.

Special attention must be paid to the Communists who occupy posts at the lower levels of the hierarchy, for often they are actually more important than those at the top.

16. The reports of the gubernia economic conferences must be read regularly, firstly, by the members of the State Planning Commission, the officials of the Central Statistical Board and the staff of Ekonomicheslcaya Zhizn; and every one of these should write a very brief review for the press or for his respective department, and be responsible for giving the necessary timely directions and conclusions. Secondly, they must be read by a group of several dozen Communists (not less), as far as possible not Soviet officials, who can read reports from the purely Communist and not from the departmental point of view.

The group headed by Comrade Milyutin in Petrograd should have charge of the distribution of the reports of the gubernia economic conferences for reading, and as material for newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, etc.

Constant efforts must be made gradually to extend the obligatory printing of reports to an ever increasing number of business organisations (uyezd economic conferences, state trusts, “ mixed companies”, etc., etc.), for unless an increasing number of the population grow accustomed to reading these reports in the libraries, it is useless talking about transforming this semi-barbarous country into a cultured and socialistic one.

17. Ekonomicheskaga Zhizn must actually become the organ of the Council of Labour and Defence, an organ of business administration. Both Deputy Chairmen should read it regularly and relentlessly combat the prevailing efforts of all writers and of all Soviet officials to reduce this newspaper to the level of an ordinary “ semi-independent”, intellectualist bourgeois organ of “ opinion”, views and wrangling and to keep out of its columns summaries of reports, control of regular receipt of these reports, serious analysis of the business operations of particular organisations, serious criticism of efficient and inefficient offices, persons, methods of work, etc.

It will take years to convert Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn into a real business management paper, into a real organ of socialist construction; all the more necessary is it, therefore, to strive steadily and systematically to achieve this.

18. The same applies to the Central Statistical Board. It must not be an “ academic” and “ independent” organisation—as it mostly is today, owing to old bourgeois habits—but an organ of socialist construction, verification, control and of registration of what the socialist state must primarily know now, immediately. Here, too, the tenacity of old habits will inevitably be very great, and all the more strenuous, therefore, must be the efforts to combat them. (I request that the Deputy Chairmen read my correspondence on this subject in the summer of 1921[See pages 30-38 of this volume] with the editor of Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn and with the Central Statistical Board.)

Ill. The Deputy Chairmen’s Methods Of Work.
Their Staffs

19. The Deputy Chairmen must free themselves as much as possible from minor details and from unnecessary interviews with People’s Commissars and members of Collegiums, which usually take up a great deal of their time and prevent them from exercising executive control.

20. The Deputy Chairmen must free themselves as much as possible from the need to attend all sorts of commissions.

21. The Deputy Chairmen must make every effort to dissolve existing commissions (nine-tenths of which are superfluous and show a tendency to revive in a slightly different guise very soon after they have been dissolved) and to prevent the formation of new ones.

22. In those cases where commission work is unavoidable, the Deputy Chairmen must do all they can to avoid taking part in it themselves, and should, as far as possible, confine themselves to finally endorsing the decisions of such commissions, or to expediting their proceedings and sending their decisions for endorsement in the prescribed order.

23. The staff of the Deputy Chairmen shall consist of, firstly, the staffs of the Executive Secretary of the Council of People’s Commissars and of the Council of Labour and Defence, their assistants and secretaries. This absolutely necessary minimum staff, whose size (not too large) is such that the Deputy Chairmen can exercise personal supervision, must under no circumstances be enlarged. Secondly, the Deputy Chairmen are to entrust individual members of the Narrow Council of People’s Commissars with various commissions. Thirdly, the People’s Commissariat of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection must serve as the main staff of the Deputy Chairmen.

The Deputy Chairmen should personally select assistants and executives from the staff of this People’s Commissariat, train them and supervise their work, and make special efforts to enlist non-Party workers and peasants for this work (this is an exceptionally difficult matter, but if it is not steadily developed Soviet power will be doomed).

24. The Deputy Chairmen must to a greater extent than hitherto exercise their powers to impose penalties (expedite the drafting of the law on this subject undertaken by Comrade Tsyurupa) for bureaucratic methods, red tape, inefficiency, neglect, etc. The penalties for the worst offences must be dismissal, legal prosecution, and the People’s Commissariat of Justice must organise trials of such cases, to which great publicity must be given.

IV. Co-Ordinating The Work Of The Two Deputy Chairmen

25. To co-ordinate their work, the two Deputy Chairmen should send each other copies of their most important instructions, and make a practice of keeping a verbatim record of the oral instructions, directions and so forth given by them during personal interviews (in the briefest terms and the most important points, of course). The number of stenographers on the Executive Secretary’s staff of the Council of People’s Commissars should therefore be increased sufficiently to enable the Deputy Chairmen to have two stenographers constantly at their service during business hours. If necessary, a couple of dictaphones of the best type should be ordered from abroad.

26. The same applies to the most important reports, written and oral.

27. In necessary and important cases the Deputy Chair-men should confer in order to reach a common understanding regarding objects and activities and to avoid duplication and running at cross purposes in the course of their work.

In the event of disagreement arising between the Deputy Chairmen the issue should be settled by the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, or, if he is absent, by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, or by a comrade especially appointed by it for the purpose.

V. Distribution Of Functions Between The Deputy Chairmen

28. During the next few months, until further notice, the functions of the Deputy Chairmen shall be distributed as follows.

29. Comrade Tsyurupa shall preside at the meetings of the Full Council of People’s Commissars (after he has presided for two hours he should be relieved by Comrade Rykov). The presence of the non-presiding Deputy Chairman is obligatory at sessions of the Full Council of People’s Commissars and at (plenary) sessions of the Council of Labour and Defence. Comrade Tsyurupa shall sign for publication in the press the decisions of the Full Council of People’s Commissars and its telegraphic orders, and also supervise the work of the commissions of the Full and Narrow Councils of People’s Commissars and the work of the Narrow Council of People’s Commissars. He shall closely supervise the work of the Executive Secretary and Secretariat of the Full Council of People’s Commissars and at the same time be responsible for co-ordinating the activities of this staff with those of the stuff of the Council of Labour and Defence and see that there is complete contact and harmony between them.

30. Comrade Rykov shall preside at the plenary sessions of the Council of Labour and Defence, sign its decisions for publication in the press and also its telegraphic orders, and closely supervise the work of the Executive Secretary and Secretariat of the Council of Labour and Defence (with the aforementioned proviso that there is complete co-ordination between the work of this staff and that of the staff of the Full Council of People’s Commissars).

31. For the purpose of executive control, supervising the reduction of staffs and improving the machinery of administration, and also for the settlement of minor current questions that do not need the decision of the Full Council of People’s Commissars and the Council of Labour and Defence, the People’s Commissariats are to be divided between the two Deputy Chairmen as follows:

Under Comrade Tsyurupa’s supervision:

People’s Commissariat of Agriculture
People’s Commissariat of Railways Supreme Economic Council
People’s Commissariat of Post and Telegraph
People’s Commissariat of Justice
People’s Commissariat of the Interior
People’s Commissariat of Nationalities
People’s Commissariat of Education.

Under Comrade Rykov’s supervision:

People’s Commissariat of Finance
People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade
Internal Trade Commission
Central Council of Co-operative Societies
People’s Commissariat of Labour (and in part the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions)
People’s Commissariat of Public Maintenance People’s
Commissariat of Food People’s Commissariat of the Army and Navy
People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs
People’s Commissariat of Public Health Central Statistical Board
Regional Economic Conferences
Concessions Committee
State Planning Commission.

V. Ulyanov (Lenin),
Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars
April 11, 1922


[1] This decree was the result of extensive work by Lenin, who drew up new rules covering the functions of the Council of People's Commissars and the Council of Labour and Defence. A. D. Tsvurupa and A. I. Rykov, Deputy Chairmen of the Council of People's Commissars and the Council of Labour and Defence, helped to draft the decree.