Excessive Centralization Creates Inefficiency

… and Prevents Authentic Popular Protagonism – Published on Zcommunications, by Marta Harnecker, March 21, 2010.

… 2. Decentralization: An Antidote to Bureaucratism:

Obviously this was not Lenin’s idea; he always related the phenomenon of bureaucracy to the state inherited from capitalism.  When he died he was worried about the “bureaucratic ulcer” which was affecting the state apparatus. In one of his last writings he maintained that “our state apparatus is to a considerable extent a survival of the past and has undergone hardly any serious change. A few days earlier he had described it as “a bourgeois and tsarist hotch-potch.” 

In January 1922, in his last work on the role of the unions, he went as far as to say that “in no way could the strike struggle be renounced” provided that it is directed against the bureaucratic deviations of the proletarian state, explaining, however, that this struggle was very different from the one waged under the capitalist regime. In that case the struggle was to destroy the bourgeois state but in this case it was to fortify the proletarian state by combating “the bureaucratic deformations” of that state, its huge weaknesses, and “all kinds of survivals of the old capitalist regime in its institutions, etcetera.”

As we can see, Lenin thought that the bureaucratic deformations which characterized the Soviet state were a legacy of the past. I think that he was wrong and the fact that he was prevented him from prescribing the right medicine for this disease. As I understand it, the underlying causes of bureaucratism – and far more important than legacies of the past – lie in the excessive centralisation of the Soviet state. We know full well what happens when not only strategic decisions but nearly all decisions are taken centrally: the paperwork sent upwards; the endless running around; the slowness with which decisions are taken; the lack of control. . . .

3. The Central State Cannot Control Everything – Only Social Control Can

Prevent Corruption:

One of the most important lessons learned when the goal set by Fidel for the 1970 sugar harvest in Cuba was not met was precisely that of understanding that it was impossible for the socialist state to administer everything centrally, especially so in an underdeveloped country like Cuba.  Therefore spaces where the people could control the way the state functioned were needed in order to ensure that it operated more effectively.  Castro admitted this in his 26 July speech in 1970: “The revolutionary process itself has shown the problems caused by bureaucratic as well as administrative methods” … (full text).

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