The November, 1962, reorganization of the Soviet industrial system may be one of the most significant events internal to Russia since the revolution of 1917. It is more than a mere admission of failure; it is the abandonment in part of the most effective power technique of a totalitarian dictator. Khrushchev has given up a large part of his personal power in order to increase the efficiency of the Soviet economy.
There have not been very many totalitarian dictatorships in history. The few that have existed all shared one characteristic: There was no order, as we generally understand the concept. Order and efficiency were sacrificed to maximize the personal power of the Dictator or Directorate.
This has always been accomplished by one organizational device: The provision of numerous lines of authority from top to bottom, and the conscious avoidance of any stable chain of command. Stalin and Hitler both realized an organizational Truism: A single chain of command allows organizational stability. This, in turn, breeds organizational traditions, rules, procedures; in short, regularity. Regularity, in turn, is a definite limit to the personal power of the Dictator. Stalin and Hitler both provided numerous lines of authority, overlapping in a complex pattern, so that no man could clearly recognize his superior, no man was indispensable, and no one was safe. When we say that these States were disorderly, this is precisely what we mean -- no pattern of obedience, study of rules and theory, or any other activity, could guarantee a man's security. It was impossible to be loyal to anyone or anything but the Dictator himself. No one could protect you from him, even by sacrificing himself.
Such a complex system is hopelessly inefficient, as we understand efficiency. It cannot produce material goods at anything like the capacity of the physical plant, and it cannot plan and allocate goods for maximum utilization. It does, however, maximize the power of the man or men at the top of the system. When there can be no group loyalty, and no personal loyalty, when bureaucratic record-keeping is no more protection than caprice, then there is little possibility of effective resistance to the system. It is significant to note that under war time pressures, Hitler was forced to abandon his complex industrial system in favor of a more traditional structure under Speer; while Stalin, faced with the German invasion, reformed the Army and appealed to the patriotism of the Russian people. When the war ended, Stalin set up his system of personal control again. Hitler lived to see Speer defy his orders to use poison gas, and was unable to do without him.
Khrushchev's reformed structure has changed this. While the new system appears to be one of greater centralization, it is no longer a simple matter to exert pressure at any point in the system. A clear chain of command has been set up, and it will become increasingly difficult to bypass after it has existed for any significant length of time. When men clearly recognize their bosses, group loyalties can, and inevitably do develop. It becomes necessary to give orders through the chain, or else to sacrifice the efficiency the new system gives by frequent purges -- a technique that results in even greater inefficiency than the complex overlapping structure that has already failed. Authority becomes channelized, and thus regularized.
The position of Khrushchev in the new system is more like that of Louis XIV than Stalin; for, although he is absolute, he must give his commands through ministers. The ministers are, to be sure, his own creatures; but the necessity for acting through them reduces the choices available. They cannot easily be ignored, and therefore, their views must be taken into account. The alternative is to dismiss the minister, who, as single head of an organization is much more important for its success than was a man whose duties were divided among many. The desirability of an order must be balanced against the possible loss of a key man.
The result is a dilemma; either the Directorate must sacrifice some of the enormous personal power once held, genuinely delegate authority, and face the fact that opinions of persons in the chain must be considered; or they must return to the Terror, and command an industrial machine even more hopelessly inefficient than ever was the previous one. Apparently this has been recognized, and a choice made for efficiency.
Khrushchev has reorganized the system along the lines advocated by his opponents, the conservative "anti-party" state managers and technicians. In doing so, he has put the party firmly on top in the new system; but it must be doubted whether party officials, generally innocent of technical sophistication, can dominate an unitary chain of command in the industrial hierarchy. If the new system is to achieve the efficiency Khrushchev so evidently desires, the managers will have to be given greater authority than they have previously held.
In fact, there is already a beginning in this direction. The party officials are definitely in charge of the new unified structure at the regional level -- but it is this level of organization that has lost the most authority in the new system. At the primary unit level. managers and party men are related in no clear manner, some industries being dominated by the party, others by the managers. The primary productive units have been given greatly increased control over their own activities. It may be that state officials, rather than party men, will dominate here.
It is too early to evaluate the total effects of this new system; but it is possible that, for the first time (outside the Army) since 1917, a legitimate patriotic faction can develop power and influence in the Soviet Union. Given time to solidify, it will be difficult to change that without a return to The Terror.
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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