Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bureaucracy and its manifestations

I have a friend whose wife works for the South Australian Department for Education and Childhood Services (DECS). It is a large bureaucracy and a very poor employer - even the SA Industrial Relations Commission stated earlier this year that workloads for teachers and school leaders were "excessive and unsustainable". The DECS bureaucracy is very much driven by the State Treasury headed by Treasurer Kevin Foley. The lines below were penned by my friend, and reminded me of Mao Zedong's Twenty Manifestations of Bureaucracy, issued during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in 1970. Mao's observations, which went to the heart of the contradiction between the proletarian state as a foundation of socialism on the one hand, and as an obstacle to continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat on the other, are printed below.

Thoughts on the education bureaucracy

Out of sight and out of touch;
hidden behind an automated
telephone system they sit;
mealy mouthed and tight
fisted they make decisions
about your life.

These phantoms of the department,
warriors of the corporate creed,
they rigidly apply poor and unfair
interpretations of the rules, to suit
their corporate masters
and their own career enhancement.

With weasel words they slither and slide.
Honesty is not one of the policies
they develop or make us implement.
It does not fit their skill set.

People are forgotten
as schools, teachers and students become
a ‘client’ to be avoided
a sacrificial lamb to slaughter
if it protects from Foley’s cuts, the empire built.

Flexibility never worked in a worker’s favour.


Mao Zedong

Twenty Manifestations Of Bureaucracy
February, 1970

[SOURCE: Joint Publications Research Service, (Washington, DC)]


1. At the highest level there is very little knowledge; they do not understand the opinion of the masses; they do not investigate and study; they do not grasp specific policies; they do not conduct political and ideological work; they are divorced from reality, from the masses, and from the leadership of the party; they always issue orders, and the orders are usually wrong, they certainly mislead the country and the people; at the least they obstruct the consistent adherence to the party line and policies; and they cannot meet with the people.

2. They are conceited, complacent, and they aimlessly discuss politics. They do not grasp their work, they are subjective and one-sided; they are careless; they do not listen to people; they are truculent and arbitrary; they force orders; they do not care about reality; they maintain blind control. This is authoritarian bureaucracy.

3. They are very busy from morning until evening, they labour the whole year long; they do not examine people and they do not investigate matters; they do not study policies; they do not rely upon the masses; they do not prepare their statements; they do not plan their work. This is brainless, misdirected bureaucracy. In other words, it is routinism.

4. Their bureaucratic attitude is immense; they cannot have any direction; they are egoistic; they beat their gongs to blaze the way; they cause people to become afraid just by looking at them; they repeatedly hurl all kinds of abuse at people; their work style is crude; they do not treat people equally. This is the bureaucracy of the overlords.

5. They are ignorant; they are ashamed to ask anything; they exaggerate and they lie; they are very false; they attribute errors to people; they attribute merit to themselves; they swindle the central government; they deceive those above them and fool those below them; they conceal faults and gloss over wrongs. This is the dishonest bureaucracy.

6. They do not understand politics; they do not do their work; they push things off onto others; they do not meet their responsibilities; they haggle; they put things off; they are insensitive; they lose their alertness. This is the irresponsible bureaucracy.

7. They are negligent about things; they subsist as best they can; they do not have anything to do with people; they always make mistakes; they offer themselves respectfully to those above them and are idle towards those below them; they are careful in every respect; they are eight-sided and slippery as eels. This is the bureaucracy of those who work as officials and barely make a living.

8. They do not completely learn politics; they do not advance in their work; their manner of speech is tasteless; they have no direction in their leadership; they neglect the duties of their office while taking the pay; they make up things for the sake of appearances. The idlers [e.g., landlord] do not begin any matters, but concentrate mainly upon their idleness; those who work hard, are virtuous, and do not act like the officials are treated poorly. This is the deceitful, talentless bureaucracy.

9. They are stupid; they are confused; they do not have a mind of their own; they are rotten sensualists; they glut themselves for days on end; they are not diligent at all, they are inconstant and they are ignorant. This is the stupid, useless bureaucracy.

10. They want others to read documents; the others read and they sleep; they criticize without looking at things; they criticize mistakes and blame people; they have nothing to do with mistakes; they do not discuss things; they push things aside and ignore it; they are yes men to those above them; they pretend to understand those below them, when they do not; they gesticulate; and they harbour disagreements with those on their same level. This is the lazy bureaucracy.

11. Government offices grow bigger and bigger; things are more confused; there are more people than there are jobs; they go around in circles; they quarrel and bicker; people are disinclined to do extra things; they do not fulfil their specific duties. This is the bureaucracy of government offices.

12. Documents are numerous; there is red tape; instructions proliferate; there are numerous unread reports that are not criticized; many tables and schedules are drawn up and are not used; meetings are numerous and nothing is passed on; and there are many close associations but nothing is learned. This is the bureaucracy of red tape and formalism.

13. They seek pleasure and fear hardships; they engage in back door deals; one person becomes an official and the entire family benefits; one person reaches nirvana and all his close associates rise up to heaven; there are parties and gifts are presented. . . This is the bureaucracy for the exceptional.

14. The greater an official becomes, the worse his temperament gets; his demands for supporting himself become higher and higher; his home and its furnishings become more and more luxurious; and his access to things becomes better and better. The upper strata gets the larger share while the lower gets high prices; there is extravagance and waste; the upper and lower and the left and right raise their hands. This is the bureaucracy of putting on official airs.

15. They are egotistical; they satisfy private ends by public means; there is embezzlement and speculation; the more they devour, the more they want; and they never step back or give in. This is egotistical bureaucracy.

16. They fight among themselves for power and money; they extend their hands into the Party; they want fame and fortune; they want positions and, if they do not get them, they are not satisfied; they choose to be fat and to be lean; they pay a great deal of attention to wages; they are cosy when it comes to their comrades but they care nothing about the masses. This is the bureaucracy that is fighting for power and money.

17. A plural leadership cannot be harmoniously united; they exert themselves in many directions, and their work is in a state of chaos; they try to crowd each other out; the top is divorced from the bottom and there is no centralization, nor is there any democracy. This is the disunited bureaucracy.

18. There is no organization; they employ personal friends; they engage in factionalism; they maintain feudal relationships; they form cliques to further their own private interest; they protect each other, the individual stands above everything else; these petty officials harm the masses. This is sectarian bureaucracy.

19. Their revolutionary will is weak; their politics has degenerated and changed its character; they act as if they are highly qualified; they put on official airs; they do not exercise their minds or their hands. They eat their fill every day; they easily avoid hard work; they call a doctor when they are not sick; they go on excursions to the mountains and to the seashore; they do things superficially; they worry about their individual interests, but they do not worry whatsoever about the national interest. This is degenerate bureaucracy.

20. They promote erroneous tendencies and a spirit of reaction; they connive with bad persons and tolerate bad situations; they engage in villainy and transgress the law; they engage in speculation; they are a threat to the Party and the state; they suppress democracy; they fight and take revenge, they violate laws and regulations; they protect the bad; they do not differentiate between the enemy and ourselves. This is the bureaucracy of erroneous tendencies and reaction.

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