Believe whatever you will, but never speak to anyone about something that can't be measured.
~ Mircea Popescu
Author: StJohn Piano
Published: 2018-11-13
Datafeed Article 68
This article has been digitally signed by Edgecase Datafeed.
6549 words - 679 lines - 17 pages

What is a Soviet factory like? Here we see one, and all the human complications of managing it, from the point of view of a factory director.

Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, Raymond A. Bauer is also a trained psychologist and sociologist. He is at home in the Russian language and has spent many months in the Soviet Union. This particular piece from his Nine Soviet Portraits, one of the four books that he has written about the U.S.S.R., refers to conditions in the early 1950s.

As the story went, a factory director needed a new chief accountant. The applicants were almost all newly out of school and had no job experience. The director asked each the same question: "How much is two and two?" Each answered: "Four", and the director ushered him politely from the office. Finally, an old-timer came in, with many years of experience with Soviet accounting. The same question was put to him. He screwed up his face, looked quizzically at the director and asked: "How many do you need?"

"How many do you need? How many do you need?" Dmitrov repeated ironically to himself as he waited impatiently for his call to the Ministry to go through. The supply chief sat at the opposite side of the desk drawing railroad cars filled with coal on a piece of scrap paper. Dmitrov's secretary came in to say the Ministry was on the phone.

Dmitrov was at his most affable when calling the Ministry for supplies: "Good day, Andrei Grigoreivitch. We have a little problem. This month's supply of coal hasn't arrived. . . ."

The supply chief leaned forward, trying to piece in the other end of the conversation.

"Yes, Andrei Grigoreivitch, we realize the Ministry has many plants to supply. . . . No, Andrei Grigoreivitch, we must have twenty carloads by the fifteenth. . . . It's impossible, we can't get along with thirteen, we wouldn't last to the end of the month. . . . Fifteen?" Dmitrov nodded to the supply chief and gave a slight wink. The supply chief drew a big car and put the number 15 in the middle of it. "I don't see how we can do it on fifteen. All right, all right. . . . Good, good, we'll try it if that's all you can spare. But it's going to be close. Thanks. Goodbye."

He hung up and relaxed back into his chair with a smile.

The supply chief crumpled his doodles into a ball and tossed them lazily into the waste basket. "I was afraid you were going to give in at thirteen. Well, with fifteen we'll have about five cars for 'insurance'."

They shook their heads half sadly and half humorously at the perpetual comedy of asking [for] twice as much as you needed, hoping to get what was necessary.

The supply chief left the office muttering sententiously: "Necessity writes its own laws."

It was late in the afternoon, and the successful call to the Ministry was an ideal note on which to leave the office. Dmitrov stuffed his brief case with papers he wanted to work on that evening, put on his coat, and told his secretary to tell the night superintendent that he could be reached at the dacha [country home] throughout the evening. The secretary picked up the phone and called the motor pool to tell his chauffeur that he was leaving the office.

He walked out through the shop. The men caught sight of the familiar figure clad in a business suit and carrying a brief case and they worked a trifle faster, stopped their bantering, and kept their eyes fixed on their machines. Glancing from side to side as he strode through the shop, Dmitrov noticed a man working on a grinding machine without safety glasses. He stopped and gave the man a thorough tongue-lashing. Dmitrov called the man's foreman over, and bawled him out for laxity in enforcing safety regulations. He told him that the next man in his section who didn't wear safety glasses while grinding was to be fined a week's pay.

Dmitrov was proud of his factory. He tried to keep it as up-to-date as possible. But sometimes he felt it an endless and thankless task trying to get workmen to use the most elementary of safety precautions. They worked hard but they had a callous indifference to the harm that machinery could do to them. He knew what injuries could do to a production schedule.

He closed the door of the shop behind him, muffling the clatter of the machinery. The chauffeur was waiting. He held the door open as Dmitrov got into the back seat. Closing the door after Dmitrov, he jumped in front and swung the car onto the street out of the plant.

"To the dacha, Comrade Director?" he called over his shoulder.


It was summer, and he had moved his family out of their winter apartment to the cottage in the country.

Dmitrov settled back into his seat and pulled from his brief case the production and stock figures that the chief of the statistical section had dropped on his desk that afternoon. He knew they contained good news, but he was eager to see the details. His finger ran quickly across the page . . . tractor production up 5 per cent over the previous month . . . parts up 15 per cent! . . . that was a pleasant surprise . . . stocks of steel scrap were a little low . . . that would need attention . . . all in all a very good picture.

The car sped past the fields of a large kolkhoz. Groups of field hands were scattered across the landscape. Some were so close to the road that Dmitrov could see the sweat running down the faces of the women as they worked. Every so often he would see a tractor pulling a cultivator, doing the work of many field hands. Could they possibly understand the miracle of creating a tractor? . . . He remembered the announcement in the morning newspaper that the wheat harvest in the Raion would exceed last year's record by 15 per cent.

Why? He mused. He answered himself that it was because they had more tractors and more machinery. Next year it would be even better. His plant's production had increased every month for the last four months.

The road took a turn. Suddenly far across the fields through the trees he caught a brief view of his plant, with wisps of smoke trailing across a distant sky pierced by the tall chimneys of the foundry.

A damned good plant, he thought . . . and to have a damned good plant you have to have a damned good director. . . .

Dmitrov leaned back with a feeling of contentment, almost of complacency. These were unusual feelings for him. He was by temperament scarcely a contented and complacent man. But to be a damned good factory director was a matter of pride and satisfaction. . . . To be a successful director of a Soviet factory you have to be on your toes. Crisis is the normal state of affairs. . . . Every job is impossible but you have to make it possible. . . . They hold you to your plan but the bastards don't get the material to you. . . . What ever happens to their plan? Where does the steel go? Who gets the electric motors that were supposed to go into your cranes? Everybody has a perfectly good explanation . . . but their explanations don't solve your problems . . . will those pompous bureaucrats in the Ministry take your explanations? . . . hell, no! . . . it's up to you to get the job done some way or other, and some way or other you do. . . . It's not always legal, and everybody knows it, the Ministry, the Party Organizer, the Raion Committee - everybody . . . but they'll keep their mouth shut if it works . . . it's their neck too . . . but one mistake . . . get caught doing something! . . . or worse yet, don't get the job done! They're down on you with a dossier that will make you look like Leon Trotsky himself. Oh, well, you can't make an omelet without cracking eggs and you can't build socialism without cracking a few skulls. . . . You can't build it either without men who can get out production . . . you're the man they depend on.

It is not à la mode for Soviet men of action to write autobiographies. Nevertheless Alexei Mikhailovitch Dmitrov sometimes came close to composing one in moments of reverie such as this. He thought of himself as the exemplification of the new and better type of Soviet factory director, and to some extent he could not help occasionally looking back - with more than a little surprise and wonderment - on the road he had traveled. He was born a little before the Revolution. His social background - not bad - mother a peasant, and father a village schoolteacher. The family moved to the city during the Civil War. For safety's sake he always recorded his father's occupation as a peasant . . . you never knew . . . whether it was a good idea or not . . . if you got away with it, fine . . . but if they found out you would be in a hell of a mess. . . . He got his engineering training in the early thirties . . . engineers are the men who build socialism . . . they are trusted and rewarded . . . you held your breath and covered up anything in your background that might keep you out of engineering school. . . .

It was a risk, and Dmitrov knew it, to get into the Party and into engineering school with even a slight falsification of the facts. But it was a risk worth taking.

Smartest thing I ever did . . . he often told himself . . . sure, the Party is a lot of trouble . . . more meetings to attend . . . more people barking at you if you slip up . . . but a non-Party engineer is stuck . . . you'll never get a plant of your own without a Party card.

. . . You didn't join to become director . . . it was more a symptom of something more basic, that you wanted to become a director, that you would become a director, and that other people - particularly people in the Party - knew that you would be . . . it was part of a feeling that you wanted to and could become a director . . . some engineers just aren't cut out to be directors! . . . they'd rather keep their noses buried in technical problems. . . . It wasn't political . . . you didn't have to be an activist to join the Party . . . maybe you even hated Stalin's guts. . . . And it wasn't your background . . . if you really wanted to join the Party you could cover up your social background . . . the reason they didn't join the Party and didn't become factory directors is that they couldn't stand the pace . . . it takes too much out of them.

Sometimes he envied the engineers. Dealing with technical problems is a snap, he thought . . . it's true engineers have their problems and some share of administration . . . but when you get down to it, it's the director who has to get things done, who has his neck out all the time . . . it's like being a juggler with somebody always throwing in another ball just when you think you have the situation under control.

. . . like a few years ago . . . the plant was almost back in shape, reconverted from turning out tanks during the war . . . one of the first plants reconverted, too . . . then the damned grain shortages . . . the men hungry, productivity falling off . . . men absenting themselves to look for grain in the villages . . . those on the job too weak to work well . . . if only you could serve them one good meal a day in the plant cafeteria. . . . The expediter solved that one.

Dmitrov remembered the day the expediter showed up in the office, snapping to attention and delivering a mock salute. His irreverence was irritating but you had to put up with it. Maybe that was part of what made him a good expediter. "Comrade Director, I believe I have found the solution for the alleviation of the acute shortage of grain in the agricultural sector of our economy."

"Fine. I suppose you are prepared to offer me the opportunity of buying it on the black market at ten times the legal rate, and thereby relieve me simultaneously of any concern for what to do with the surplus of cash in the director's fund", Dmitrov snapped and waved the expediter to a seat.

"No, no, Alexei Mikhailovitch. I paid a few social visits to acquaintances of mine in some of the neighboring MTSs. We got to discussing the severe shortage of grain and the equally severe shortage of tractor parts in the same breath. To make a long story short, they have enough grain put away for 'insurance' to make it interesting to us for a few spare parts. With the pressure on for new tractors, nobody's making parts. They're more desperate than we are. Soon, with your permission, I will instruct the shop chief to 'discover' that an appropriate number of parts are defective and must be scrapped. Then I will, again with your permission, borrow a few trucks from the pool and do my bit to overcome present gross deficiencies in maintaining agricultural machinery in proper socialist working order."

"I'd better talk to the shop chief about having the parts declared scrap", said Dmitrov. "In the meantime don't let that new young Partorg find out how you're getting the grain. If he asks, tell him that the kolkhozniki are making a voluntary contribution out of an awareness of the importance of maintaining production of agricultural machinery at a maximum level. He will understand that kind of language but he's still a little uninformed about the realities of running a factory."

. . . The expediter, how could you ever run a factory without him . . . he seemed to have relatives and friends in the right place to get you out of every possible sort of a jam. . . .

But did the Partorg ever find out how you ever got that grain . . . you never really knew . . . how could you tell what was on his mind when he made his speech at the next meeting of the plant's Party organization . . . it could have meant anything.

He stood up and said: "Alexei Mikhailovitch, I am new in this Raion, but I am truly amazed and, of course, very pleased to observe the extraordinarily high level of political consciousness among the kolkhozniki of this area. It is a fine tribute to the work of the Raikom that the kolkhozniki have voluntarily contributed a portion of their own grain to factory workers. I think we should inform the Raikom of this event."

. . . was he being ironical . . . you couldn't . . . you had to answer him so that you had him either way. . . .

"I quite agree with you", Dmitrov answered. "It was a rare act of political consciousness on the part of the kolkhozniki, and not a day too soon. We have, as you pointed out, an excellent Raikom, and we have unquestionably benefited from their splendid political work. But remember, Comrade Partorg, that the one thing on which the Raikom is adamant - we have to meet our production quotas. Remember we were 20 per cent behind schedule when we got the grain, and production came right up afterward. Yes, I agree we have an excellent Raikom, and they certainly aren't a batch of stuffy bureaucratic bastards. They don't ask how you got things done. They just want to make sure that they're done. I must say", and he dropped his voice to the level of a confidential conversation, "I was particularly glad for your sake that the food came through when it did. You know it doesn't look good for a new Partorg if the plant falls behind just when he comes on the job. Of course, we all know the reasons, but sometimes the Raikom and the Ministry get more concerned with the results than the reasons. As I say, I was quite glad for your sake."

The Partorg was silent.

To make sure the lesson stuck, Dmitrov made a point of praising the Partorg to the Raikomsec - in the presence of the Partorg himself, of course - for his fine cooperation, initiative and lack of bureaucratic formalism. After that the Partorg had to go along with Dmitrov.

. . . not a bad fellow once he learned the facts of life. . . .

. . . but in situations like this sometimes you wonder whether the old Bolshevik directors didn't have it better. . . . Party members, some of whom could scarcely write their names, but got positions of responsibility because they were reliable politically . . . sure you have a better technical training . . . you understand what's going on in the plant, and you don't have to let the chief engineer do the talking for you with the Ministry . . . but when it came to Party matters and influence in the government, the old boys were better off . . . they were Party people first, and technical specialists afterwards - if at all. . . . Take the duffer who ran your plant in 1936 . . . the stories they told about him . . . when an old technical specialist got in trouble with the secret police he went straight to the Central Committee and had him back on the job in a week . . . the big shots were old comrades of his . . . he wouldn't have to handle a smart aleck of a young Partorg with kid gloves. . . .

. . . but on the other hand that's why they weren't around any more . . . the Party couldn't control them . . . very few of them survived the purges of the late thirties . . . and most of those were replaced by younger technicians by the end of the war. . . .

When Dmitrov thought of them they seemed like prehistoric creatures, just as the period of the purges seemed a nightmare to be forgotten if possible.

A young man just out of school, Dmitrov had scarcely known what to make of the purges. One hero after another fell, some of them the men who had wrought the Revolution, and many of whom had built the Soviet industry of which he was so proud. Men were praised for their faithful service to the Party and the country one day and disappeared the next . . . were they really traitors? . . . if they were, whom could you trust? how could you trust anybody? . . . if they weren't traitors, what was happening? . . . how could you tell an innocent mistake or a difference in judgment from treachery and sabotage? . . .

The effect on the morale of technical personnel was marked. It was obvious that many of his co-workers were shaken in their faith in the regime. Dmitrov's own doubts never crystallized. He had too much to do! His problems were too immediate and pressing to permit thinking about politics. In quick succession he moved from junior engineer to production engineer. The purges virtually stripped the plant of its older technical and administrative personnel and suddenly he found himself the chief engineer of the factory.

He was only thirty, and already saddled with tremendous responsibilities - which meant tremendous dangers. Dmitrov survived strains which broke other men. He did it by learning to repress his fears and doubts, and by throwing himself into the problems at hand.

. . . any misstep can bring trouble . . . demotion . . . arrest . . . worse. You don't even have to make a mistake . . . just have a wrong friend, or get denounced by someone who is after your scalp . . . or your job.

But, where others froze to inaction, Dmitrov buried himself in the job and refused to think of danger. He developed also the indispensable trait of the successful Soviet executive, a measure of callousness, or obtuseness that permitted him to drive directly ahead, insensitive to minor obstacles, to dangers, and to vexing personal considerations that befuddle, confuse, and inhibit those more given to sentimentalism.

He got his first plant just before the war. The first year of his directorship was not very successful. They filled only 80 per cent of the plan. He was plagued by continued rebukes from the Raikom and the Commissariat, and by caustic remarks in the local press. Despite his attempts to repress his fears, Dmitrov broke into a sweat every time he got a telegram from the Commissariat, and he opened it with moist and trembling fingers.

He remembered vividly one terrible morning in Moscow. Summoned to report on the reasons for the lag in production, he went the Commissariat accompanied by the chief engineer, a non-Party man who had served in the plant since it had been built during the first Five Year Plan.

"What in the name of the devil are you doing out there?" he was asked.

"Perhaps I should explain to the Comrade Commissar that I have been in the plant only two months and - "

"None of your goddamned excuses. Even the saboteur who was in there before you got more production out than you do. What are you doing dragging this lop-eared engineer along with you? Couldn't you learn enough engineering to handle your own problems? I should think - "

"But, Comrade Commissar, I am new at - "

"Dammit, I didn't ask you if you were new at the plant, and no more excuses! Beat it! Get back there and get some tractors out, and don't bring me any more excuses or I'll tell you what you can do with them."

Dmitrov reeled from the office.

As time went on he learned to be prepared for such abuse. It wasn't typical of all men in high places. But still there were many who covered up their own defects by shouting, stamping, pounding the table, and cursing. One had to learn who they were, and occasionally to scream back at them. But that was risky.

After a few sessions like that Dmitrov resolved to meet production schedules no matter what happened. That was the turning point in his career. He found that the Commissariat after the war the Ministry - and the Party overlooked virtually anything if only he kept production up . . . true, the old type director had his political connections in Moscow . . . but you can hold your production record over their head . . . the director of the largest factory in the Raion is a person of importance to the Party officials . . . their reputations depend on you . . . that's your weapon . . . and so does the Ministry . . . they have to fulfill their plan, too . . . and that means they, too, depend on you . . . and next to actually fulfilling your plan, at least maintain the appearance of having filled it . . . a good bookkeeper is a valuable asset . . . two plus two is as much as you need. . . .

The magic symbol of "plan fulfillment" ties people together in a peculiar circle of responsibility, mutual assistance, and of suspicion, distrust, and criminal conspiracy. Dmitrov had known the realities of Soviet life before he became director, but only now did he begin to appreciate the complicated web of relationships and circumstances in which he was to be plunged. He urged the foremen to get more production out of their men. The foremen, to keep the men satisfied, had to falsify work records. He, in turn, shut his eyes to this - knowing that it had to be done even though, if brought into the open, this fact could land him and the foremen in jail. He and the foremen became partners in crime. It happened with the engineers, the supply chief, and the expediter whom he sent scurrying around to locate scarce materials. It happened with the Partorg, the local Party officials, and even the Ministry. Only the naive did not understand the need for illicit devices to achieve the goal of plan fulfillment. Each became involved, if only by shutting his eyes to what happened. Each, in turn, held his breath, hoping that none of the fictions would be unmasked by some outsider, such as an independent Party inspector who was not linked in the same chain of mutual responsibility. Once one thread of the web began to unravel, everyone in the circle of conspiracy was endangered.

It was a delicate bit of judgment to know when to support a fellow conspirator, when to sacrifice him. Dmitrov had to make this decision only twice.

. . . there was the foreman who got drunk and tore into a visiting Party big-shot - told him that there wouldn't be so much spoilage if the blasted bureaucrats would see to it that they got decent machine tools instead of coming around snooping at people who were trying to get some work done . . . he was arrested, and the Secret Section turned up a fat dossier proving he had been falsifying work records.

Dmitrov had to join in denouncing him to save his own skin. . . . this Secret Section, you never really knew their attitude toward those things . . . maybe they didn't care unless somebody wanted to get you for something else . . . they must know . . .

Or maybe it would get complicated by something political like the case of the supply agent.

Dmitrov needed a truck. It was right during the war. They were harder to get than a copy of the Bible in a state bookstore. The supply agent was full of initiative, but, it turned out, not of discretion.

The supply agent showed up one morning and announced proudly: "The truck, Alexei Mikhailovitch, has been found!"

"Good, where did you get it?"

"I contacted an American engineer who has just finished a refinery in the K------ region. For a few liberated Leicas, and a brief lecture on the desirability of allied cooperation, he let me drive off with a used Chevrolet."

Dmitrov was furious.

"May you join your mother in hell! You crazy horse's tail. My God, don't you know that those foreign missions are covered? You idiot! There isn't a chance in a hundred that they haven't trailed you back to the plant. God himself knows what they'll make of this business. I'll have to report you, that's all . . . I'll have to report you."

"My God, Comrade Director, don't do that!"

"I can't help it. How could you be so stupid?"

The supply chief got eight years.

Dmitrov learned how to assess the people around him, and he acquired techniques of tactical maneuvering that enabled him to get what he wanted without showing his hand. His life ran on a more even keel and the performance of the factory went up.

The director and the engineers waged an annual battle with the Ministry to keep the plan within bounds so they could fill or overfulfill it. After a few years, Dmitrov realized there were certain elements of sham in this fight - the Ministry was just as anxious as you were to have a little "water" in the plan. If the individual plants didn't fulfill their plans, then the Ministry couldn't fulfill its own. An unspoken conspiracy developed: Dmitrov's task was to present a plausible set of figures, and the Ministry carried out its part by not inspecting these figures too closely.

Such convenient arrangements, however, were disturbed by shifts of personnel in the Ministry, by periodic replacement of Partorgs, by new men who were bent on ferreting out bureaucratic feather-bedding, and by the prying from outside inspectors. It was as if some hand inspired by the devil intervened to stir things up just when you got things stabilized and might begin to enjoy the comforts of security.

Dmitrov's greatest satisfaction was the smooth operation of his plant, and he had his worst fights with the Party and bureaucracy over this. Somebody was always trying to make a hero out of himself and everybody else by handing you some emergency job that would knock the hell out of the flow of production.

Right after the war, one of these fights gave him his worst scare since the purge. A member of the the Oblast Central Committee was sold on a new type of harrow supposed to suit the local soil. He wanted a hundred experimental models turned out. The Oblast Committee approached the Ministry. The Ministry ordered Dmitrov's plant to take on this job - just when production was beginning to run smoothly.

Dmitrov went to the Oblast Committee himself, cornered the Secretary and pounded the table.

"You damned bureaucrats have no idea what coordinated production is", he shouted. "I'll have to take two engineers and a dozen draftsmen off to design this goddamned harrow and then tie up a whole shop for three months. I won't have you doing this to my plant." Then instantly he thought: "My plant - Christ, what a blunder! If he caught that, he'll jump all over me. . . ."

The Secretary froze, and then began very politely: "Oh, I beg your pardon, your lordship. The Party has no intention of interfering in the operation of privately owned enterprises. I have assumed that yours was a state factory." And he launched into a violent lecture. "The Party Committee has noticed for some time that you have a tendency to think less and less of the needs of the Party and the country. Who do you think you are, to set your personal interests ahead of . . . This is the kind of behavior . . . Calls for a re-evaluation of your record . . . You will hear further . . ."

A panic such as he had not felt for years spread over Dmitrov. He forced himself to control his behavior. But nothing could suppress the nausea he felt. For days he waited, working mechanically, scarcely seeing or hearing what went on about him. Then the summons from the Territorial Committee, and four long hours of hell-raising, the threat of an official Party censure, and possible discharge and court action if he didn't get the cultivators out in record time and improve his attitude in the future.

Two days later, the front page of the Oblast Party organ featured an editorial: "Toward the eradication of remnants of capitalism in the consciousness of Soviet factory directors." Dmitrov scanned the editorial several times to see if his name was mentioned specifically. . . . No, thank God! At least they're suspending judgment. . . .

Both he and the chief engineer slept in their offices for a month, getting production of the harrows organized without ruining the plant's regular schedule. For this he had to give the chief engineer and his wife a month at a health resort, paid for out of the director's fund. . . . you knew only too well [that] being caught between the Party, the Ministry and the realities of production could be hell at times. . . . God knows you can't overestimate the contributions of the Party to keeping the plant running . . . when you get in a rough spot, the Partorg often helps to cut a lot of red tape. . . . if you look at it from the standpoint of the country, they do jack up a lot of deadheads and prune away at the ministerial bureaucracy. . . . they act as a sort of spark plug and coordinator of the economy . . . but when you feel the bite. . . .

Dmitrov had shifts of mood about being a director. There were good days when he was inclined to look favorably not only on the world, but on himself.

The rewards of being a director were considerable, and he thought with satisfaction of the contrast between himself now and the boy who started out in a village school, worked for a while as a laborer, and finally got the education and training that moved him up the ladder of success.

And his wife - one would scarcely recognize the peasant girl just in from the village that he met in evening school in 1929. Now she was the lady of the town which had grown up around the plant, officiating at meetings, leading campaigns, dressed in the latest Moscow fashions.

Those Moscow fashions! Sometimes he wished he had never heard of them. How his Verushka loved her hairdresser and dressmaker! She would commandeer his car to take her to the dressmaker's and let it stand outside for hours while she had her fittings. That came to an end when he was called over to the Raion Committee Headquarters in an emergency and she had the car. He had to take the truck from the motor pool and suffer the embarrassment of dismounting from the cab of the truck in front of the entire Raion Committee. No one said a thing, but it was clear from the suppressed smiles that they all knew where his car and chauffeur were. That night he and Verushka had a long argument. She kept asking tearfully if he didn't want her to dress as a director's wife should. He replied just as often that it wasn't necessary to tie up the director's automobile all day and hame him in front of the entire Raion Committee just so she could put on airs. After that she used the car only sparingly. But these were minor problems. He was proud of the fact that she had kept up with his change of status, that she did not embarrass him by remaining a dumpy hausfrau as so many wives did. She could entertain guests well, and she was a good mother of the children.

. . . and the children - Vanya at the Institute, and Nadia getting ready to study music at a Leningrad conservatory when she finished the secondary school . . . your own house . . . vacation on the Black Sea every year, the plant's affairs permitting . . . the town officials respect you . . . the workers tremble in your presence . . . you don't have to cool your heels for hours in the reception room of the Moscow bureaucrats. . . .

. . . the building of socialism is a big job, and it's the practical men of industry who are doing it. . . . The country is going places, and it's a good thing to feel that you are one of the key people. . . .

There were other days when his doubts climbed to the surface. A nagging little fear that the day might come when the regime would not value his services so highly. Then the little entries in the dossier, the record they must have of all the cutting of red tape, the illicit devices he had resorted to - precisely the things which made him valuable now - would be used against him. On these days, he treated the head of the Secret Section with extra deference.

Sometimes he was infuriated by the sheer injustice of being held to a production norm when no one would ensure him a smooth flow of supplies. In munitions production at least the Party and the Ministry saw to it that you got the material you needed. . . . Political doubts - no, but the stupid indignity of mouthing meaningless slogans no one could believe . . . why build socialism on stupidity and inanity? . . . why not admit our faults? . . . why bring political charges against a man for production failure when he had to work with faulty material? . . . another person exiled because a relative had lived under German occupation; so it went. . . .

Sometimes Dmitrov wondered if it were possible to take it easier, to take fewer chances, to produce less and play safe. He thought of Vasiliev, the director of the local electric station. Vasiliev had had the same job for ten or twelve years now, and probably would never advance very far. He took a safe conservative approach to everything, was more interested in keeping what he had than in getting more. A few directors were like that, but Dmitrov couldn't see himself being that way for very long. Being a director is a risky job under the best of circumstances, so you might as well reap the benefits. . . .

The car lurched as it hit a rut. Dmitrov caught himself on the back of the front seat.

"Be careful", he barked.

"Yes, sir, Comrade Director", answered the chauffeur.

Dmitrov looked at the back of the chauffeur's neck. He seemed a decent enough chap, but they said that every chauffeur reported on his boss to the MVD.

"Goddam it", shouted Dmitrov, "if you don't learn to drive any better than that I'll see to it that you go back to driving a truck." Might as well put a little fear into him . . . never does any harm. . . .

"Yes, sir, Comrade Director."

Dmitrov looked at the fields speeding by, and suddenly realised that he was halfway out to the dacha.

. . . I've been wasting time, he thought. He returned to the papers which had fallen onto his lap . . . we need steel scrap . . . I'll call the Ministry in the morning . . . how much do we need? . . . how much is two and two?

[start of notes]

I have in my possession a paper copy of The World of Business (Volume II), by Edward C. Bursk, Donald T. Clark, and Ralph W. Hidy, published in 1962 by Simon and Schuster in New York.

One of the first few pages has these details:
- The World of Business
- A selected library of the literature of business from the accounting code of Hammurabi to the 20th-century "Administrator's Prayer".
- Edited with commentaries and notes by three members of the faculty of the Harvard Business School
-- Edward C. Bursk, Editor of the Harvard Business Review
-- Donald T. Clark, Librarian of the Baker Library
-- Ralph W. Hidy, Isidor Straus Professor of Business History

The Factory Director in the U.S.S.R. is found on pages 1185-1199 of The World of Business. I have treated this version as authoritative.

The World of Business cites its original source on page 1185:
- Raymond A. Bauer, "The Factory Director", in Nine Soviet Portraits, Technology Press (Mass. Institute of Technology), Cambridge, and John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, copyright © 1955, pp. 107-122. Reprinted by permission of the author and the publishers.

On page 1195, there is a cartoon, which I have not preserved. The cartoon contains Russian text. Below the cartoon is an English translation of this text.

Cartoon description: There are two men standing in a large industrial building. Above them, suspended from a overhead crane, hangs a nail the size of several men. One man is pointing up at the nail. The English text reads:
- "Who needs a nail as big as that?"
- "Who cares? The important thing is we fulfilled the plan for nails at one fell swoop."
The word "Krokodil" appears after this text, aligned to the right. I think that it is the public name of the cartoon's author.

The book was borrowed and needed to be kept in good condition. I had to be careful with it.

I decided to experiment with photos and OCR.

Photographing process:
- I took a photo of each page, using an iPhone mounted on a tripod with a bluetooth button control.
- I propped the non-photographed side of the book up with other books and held it steady with one hand so that it was approximately vertical (this reduced the curvature of the target page).
- With one finger on the same hand, I pressed on the inside of the photographed page to hold it steady and further reduce its curvature.
- I used my other hand to hold and press the button control that commanded the iPhone to take a picture.
- I photographed all the odd pages first. I then changed the position of the tripod, propped up the opposite side of the book, and photographed all the even pages in order.

ocrconvert.com (which I previously used while working on James Goldman: A Word About Castles) couldn't handle jpg files.

Note: OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition.

Google "ocr jpg".


It uses a recaptcha interface to prevent use of the free service by bots. After the first few uses by a human, almost every use requires answering a captcha question (e.g. click on all the boxes that contain a boat).

Conversion of photographs into text:
- Work computer: 2008 Macbook running Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard
- I changed the image names to be page numbers (e.g. p1186.jpg), so that they were reordered in the filesystem into the original page order.
- I opened each image in Preview and cropped it so that it contained only the text.
- I used www.i2ocr.com to perform OCR on each image in turn. I kept a single text file open and copied the output text for each image into it.

I want to remove any non-ascii bytes from the final file. I'll write some Python code to do this.

Remove non-ASCII bytes in Python

python 2.7.13

input_file_path = "scanned_text.txt"
output_file_path = "scanned_text_ascii_only.txt"

f = open(input_file_path)
data = f.read()

output = ""
ignored = 0
kept = 0

for byte in data:
	# get the decimal integer value of the byte
	n = ord(byte)
	# printable ASCII byte values (note that the value 127 is excluded, as this is the non-printable DEL byte). 
	whitespace_values = [9,10,32] # tab, newline, and space, respectively.
	character_values = range(33,127) # ASCII characters
	allowed_values = whitespace_values + character_values
	if n not in allowed_values:
		# ignore non-printable ASCII bytes and any byte with a value lying in the range 128-255 inclusive.
		ignored += 1

		# add this byte to the output
		output += byte
		kept += 1

f2 = open(output_file_path,"w")

print "%d bytes ignored"%ignored
print "%d bytes kept"%kept

aineko:the_factory_director stjohnpiano$ python remove_non_ascii_bytes.py

1775 bytes ignored
27693 bytes kept

The resulting text is not a good starting point.


As THE STORYIWENT, a factory director needed a new chief ac
countant. The applicants were almo

you need? How many do you need?
repeated ironically to himself as he waited impatiently for his call
to the Ministry to go through. The supply chief sat at the opposite
Sld of the desk drawing railroad cars lled with coal on a piece of
scrap paper. Dmrtrovs secretary came in to say the Ministry was

Yes, Andrei Grigoreivitch, we realize the Ministry has many

plants to supply. . . . No, Andrei Grigoreivitch, we must have
twenty carloads by the fteenth. . . . Its impossible, we cant get

along with thirteen, we wouldnt last to the end of the month. . . .
Fifteen? Dmitrov nodded to the supply chief and gave a slight wink.
The supply chief drew a big car and put the number 15 in the middle
of it. I dont see how we can do it on fteen. All right, all right. ;

. . . Good, good, well try it if thats all you can spare. -But its, T i A
going to be close. Thanks. Goodbye.
He hung up and relaxed back into his chair with a smile.

The supply chief crumpled his doodles into a ball and toss,ed. T



lazily into the waste basket. I was afraid you were going to
thirteen. Well, with fteen well have about ve cars
They shook their heads half sadly and half hu111or.o.ui };;.v;:7?

The low quality of the recognised text is almost certainly due to these factors:
- the pages were not completely flat.
- the pages were not photographed at a consistent angle.

The transcription of the original text and/or correction of the recognised text (via typing or dictation) was made much, much easier by having images of each page displayed on the same screen as the text editor. The screen is large enough (20.5 inches wide, 11.5 inches high, 23.5 inches diagonally) to allow the images to be displayed in sufficient detail for convenient reading alongside the text editor containing the transcribed plain text.

The correct approach to the problems of page curvature and inconsistent page angle would be to destroy the book binding and put each side of each page through a scanner, carefully aligning the pages such that they are positioned at a consistent orientation prior to scanning.

I'm curious about the original source.

Google "nine soviet portraits".

Excerpt from:

Nine Soviet Portraits
By Raymond A. Bauer


The raw material for these vignettes came from hundreds of interviews with Soviet refugees, conducted by the Harvard Refugee Interview Project in 1950-1951. These data were later supported by work at the Harvard Russian Research Center and at the M.I.T. Center for International Studies, and from information from the Soviet press.

These nine Soviet portraits are of role-types of Russians in the middle ranks of Soviet society in the post-war era. Dr. Bauer believes that this is the crucial group to examine in order to appreciate the problems of social control in the Soviet Union. Members of this group respond to a pattern of more limited incentives and personal motives. At the same time, the contributions of these people are of first importance to the functioning of the Soviet system, and the degree of skill required of them is considerable.

Nine Soviet Portraits is a study of how these individuals live in a totalitarian society, of the mechanisms of accommodation which they adopt in an almost impossible situation. This book introduces to the general reader some of the basic social and psychological dynamics of Soviet society.

Not all of the characters or the concepts in this volume will be foreign to the reader. The reader will discover many familiar personalities and situations in these sketches. The Soviet Union is a modern industrial society, and all industrial societies have features in common. This is what makes Nine Soviet Portraits such fascinating reading: it gives compelling insights into the men and women who live behind the Iron Curtain and the social and psychological dynamics which motivate them, and offers an unusual perspective in which to view our own society.

Changes from the original text:
- I have removed word-breaking hyphens.
- I have not preserved the original line breaks. I treat each paragraph as a single line.
- I have not preserved page divisions or page numbers.
- I have replaced the original indentation at the start of each paragraph with an empty line after each paragraph.
- I have substituted a hyphen with a space either side of it ( - ) for the em dash used in the original text.
- In the original text, the single and double quotation marks were curled to indicate whether they were positioned at the start or end of a phrase/sentence/sentence_group. I have replaced them with straight quotation marks.
- I have replaced curled apostrophes with straight single quotation marks.
- I have moved punctuation out from between quotation marks if it is not relevant to the text within those quotation marks.
=> Each answered: "Four," and the director ushered him politely from the office.
=> Each answered: "Four", and the director ushered him politely from the office.
- In the first sentence of the story "As the story went, a factory director needed a new chief accountant.", the phrase "As the story went" was set in small capital letters, except for the first letter, which was a normal capital A.
- In the sentence "He stopped and gave the man a thorough tongue-lashing.", the word "lashing" was originally "lacing".
- In the sentence "I contacted an American engineer who has just finished a refinery in the K------ region.", the six consecutive hyphens were originally two consecutive em dashes.

[end of notes]