Soviet military companies and regiments infamously had in addition to regular officers zampolit, or (by the older name) political commissars. The position was as “a supervisory officer responsible for the political education (ideology) and organization of the unit they [were] assigned to.” Tom Clancy to the cheer of his readers has the captain of a defecting Soviet submarine kill the annoying zampolit in The Hunt for Red October.
Clancy juiced up the zampolit’s role for the sake of drama. Reality was more boring, according to one summary.
The zampolit’s official duties tended to be limited to ideological training and indoctrination, assist the commander in maintaining discipline, and to maintain morale…Far from an instrument of totalitarian terror, the existence of the large networks of zampolits tended to exacerbate the tendencies of the Soviet military to be officer-heavy and zampolit would often collude with their military counterparts to cover up evidence of wrong doing. The presence of these semi-autonomous officers did create some friction with their military counterparts, especially since a zampolit’s endorsement was crucial for promotion, but in practice the system was relatively benign.
Zampolit are thus no different than corporate Diversity directors or other relevant HR staff.
Zampolit enforced ideological conformity, so does HR. Zampolit needlessly swelled officer roles, therefore increasing bureaucracy and causing inefficiencies, and so does HR. Zampolit conspired to keep secrets, so does HR for favored officers and employees. The zampolit’s endorsement was crucial for promotion, and so is HR’s.
Every company of any size now has a Diversity officer, or very soon will have one, who herself is in charge of a corps of HR apparatchiks. Just as, I’m sure, ordinary soldiers and sailors would have dreaded being sent to a zampolit for a corrective session, ordinary employees fear being “sent to HR” over a diversity or -ism complaint.
Just ask Google’s now ex-employee James Damore of his experience with HR. He was fired for writing, in public, that hate fact that men and women are different. Ideology says they are not—though it is always allowable to point out instances where men suffer in comparison to women.
Since HR flacks have no real job beyond complying with insurance- and government-mandated paperwork, they must invent work for themselves to justify their existence. Most of this falls under ordinary bureaucratization, like inventing new and ever-longer review forms and procedures. Or to write and update “policy” manuals that never diminish in size.
But some of it is diversity related, and must be, since they are meant to be seen as ideological enforcers. Google (to stick with the example) even issues a diversity “annual report”. Judging by its length—and this is only a wild guess—I’d say it took at least one man-month to complete. Make that woman-month. Google’s Diversity & Inclusion Officer is a non-male.
This woman was compensated what must be in the high five figures, or perhaps much more, to write “First, the responsibility and work to achieve a more diverse and inclusive Google is shifting from a primarily People Operations and grassroots-led model, to one of shared ownership with Google’s most senior leaders. Google’s leaders are focused on, and committed to, accelerating our progress.”
This can be rendered in plain language: managers were told quotas will be tightened and enforced. That rendering, given it only took a couple of seconds to write, thus represents a considerable cost savings. But Brown, the non-male Diversity & Inclusion officer, does not want to make what she does look easy.
So she also wrote: “Second, we are further increasing transparency. Google’s publication of workforce representation data in 2014 helped shape the current industry conversation on diversity in tech. We aim to take the conversation—and our work—to the next level as we further refine our approach, so this year we’ve published new and more detailed workforce representation data.”
In short: employees were also told quotas will be tightened and enforced. It’s not clear what the “next level” will be. A good guess is that pain will be involved.
None of what Brown writes has anything to do with writing better code or creating nifty, marketable algorithms. It is instead pure ideological education and enforcement.
It is well to study Brown’s report, for if your own company doesn’t produce one like it, it soon will, as I said. Since victim groups and ideology shifts in time, so too will report contents. But that corporate zampolit must only grow in size and importance is assured.
Does this make America a communist country?