The posthumous publication of the Recollective Notes of L.M. Kaganovich in 1996 clarifies a number of contentious episodes of Soviet history. Below we publish a portion of the book which covers the 'anti-party group of Malenkov, Kaganovich and Molotov.'1 The removal of these leaders from the Central Committee of the CPSU in June 1957 was a nodal turning point in the history of the USSR, which prepared the basis for the decisive victory of the 'market-socialist' policies of Khrushchev.2 Many of the economic and political issues which were at the back of the crisis are indicated here. It is known that in 1955 a major transformation occurred in Soviet planning as centralised directive planning was switched to 'coordinated planning'. Kaganovich gives his own evaluation of the progressive decentralisation of the planning process which was now sought to be centred on the Union Republics and local bodies. It also emerges that Khrushchev publicly announced the decision to establish as the new prime task of the Soviet party and state the overtaking of the USA in the sphere of animal husbandry without any preparatory work by the state planning authorities and without having beforehand consulted the party and state authorities. Differences also existed between Molotov and Khrushchev on the scale of the ongoing virgin lands programme. On one issue Molotov was completely isolated in the party leadership which wished to re-establish closer state relations with the Yugoslavs. Kaganovich informs us that Khrushchev went further than the party decision in his anxiety to move closer to the Yugoslavs. Abundant details are depicted on the subjective and arbitrary behaviour of Khrushchev. It is ironical in view of the presentation of Khrushchev internationally as a votary of 'democracy' and 'collective leadership' that on issue after issue he flouted the norms of democratic party functioning. It was this which persuaded the majority of the party Presidium to seek the removal of Khrushchev from the party leadership in June 1957. This elucidates the hitherto puzzling fact that Khrushchev incurred the ire of both the left wing of the leadership of the party Presidium, Molotov and Kaganovich, who were holding back the process of liberalisation, as well as the prominent rightists such as Malenkov who, in the company of Beria and Khrushchev, had embarked on 'the thaw' immediately after the death of Stalin. This is why in all probability Molotov in his memoirs repeatedly states that the majority of the Presidium had 'no programme to advance', they were only concerned to 'remove Khrushchev and have him appointed minister of agriculture'.3
The Presidium meeting discussed the question of Khrushchev under the chairmanship of Bulganin for four days. Unbeknown to the Presidium, the highest organ of the CPSU, Khrushchev surreptitiously called members of the party Central Committee to Moscow. The military and the state security organs ferried members of the Central Committee to Moscow by airplane. Serov of the state security and Zhukov and Konev of the military were involved in organising the assembly of the Central Committee members in the Sverdlov Hall. Konev led the delegation that asked the members of the Presidium to come and report their proceedings to the plenum of the Central Committee and Zhukov accompanied Khrushchev into the hall. This was the prelude to the Central Committee meeting which removed Molotov, Kaganovich, Shepilov and Malenkov from the Presidium of the CPSU. Kaganovich confirms and amplifies earlier accounts of the methods by which Khrushchev re-asserted his domination. It is apparent that a virtual coup d'etat involving the military and state security organs had taken place against the Presidium of the CPSU.
In its Resolution of 29th June 1957 the Central Committee presented the 'anti-party group' as having constantly opposed the course inaugurated by the 20th Congress of the CPSU. In the realm of economic policy it was charged with seeking to frustrate the reorganisation of industrial management and the setting up of economic councils in the economic regions which we have seen implied the end of centralised planning. They opposed the increase of material incentives to the peasantry and were hostile to the expansion of commodity-money relations and the loosening of planning over the group property of the collective farms. Moreover they were criticised for opposing the call for overtaking the USA in the per capita output of milk, butter and meat and adopting a conservative approach to the development of the virgin lands programme. In foreign policy the group was accused of hampering new policies which were intended to lower international tension and strengthen world peace. Molotov was targeted for opposing measures to improve Soviet relations with Yugoslavia and holding back the relaxation of international tension particularly in relation with Japan and Austria and denying the advisability of establishing personal contacts between the Soviet leadership and the statesmen of other countries. He was also charged with opposition to the notions of the possibility of preventing wars under present conditions and the possibility of having different ways to the transition to socialism in different countries.4
What immediately becomes clear is that Molotov was being accused of antagonism to the fundamentals of the Khrushchevite new course. It is apparent that Molotov opposed the policies of Khrushchev in this period and in this he gained the support of Kaganovich to a large measure and some partial support from the majority of the party Presidium. A comprehensive appraisal of the content and consistency of Molotov's struggle against Soviet revisionism must await a detailed examination of the Stenographic Report of the Central Committee plenary session of June 1957 and the various letters and criticisms sent by Molotov to the CPSU leadership over the years.5
What was the impact of the events of June 1957 on economic policy? A month prior to the removal of Molotov and Kaganovich the system of planned allocation of the products of socialist industry had been abolished and Gosplan established a number of centralised sales organisations to sell the products of Soviet industry. Three months after the removal of the 'anti-party group' measures were adopted by which Soviet enterprises were expected to run on the basis of profitability. By these policies the means of production now circulated as commodities in the state sector.6 In 1958 the agricultural machinery of the Machine Tractor Stations were sold to the collective farms as a result of which the sphere of commodity circulation expanded massively in the USSR.
At the 22nd Congress of the CPSU in 1961 Khrushchev resumed the attacks on Molotov, Kaganovich, Malenkov, Shepilov and also Voroshilov. In contrast to the party Central Committee resolution of June 1957 Khrushchev now skirted around the antagonisms on the principal political and economic questions. He concentrated his fire exclusively on the 'fierce resistance' of the Molotov group to the 'Party line aimed at condemning the cult of the individual, fostering inner-party democracy, condemning and rectifying all abuses of power and exposing those directly responsible for these repressive measures'.7 By this stratagem Khrushchev sought to obfuscate the very real counter-revolution which had taken place in the USSR.
It must be considered a matter of great regret that Molotov, Kaganovich and Shepilov did not receive any support from the international communist movement at a time when the seeds of dissolution of socialism in the Soviet Union and the people's democracies were being sown in 1953-57.
In his political diary Enver Hoxha noted the 'astonishing' vacillations of the Communist Party of China in the face of Soviet revisionism. In the entry for September 15th, 1964 he observed that at the Moscow meeting in 1957:
'Comrade Mao publicly praised and supported Khrushchev; in fact he approved the condemnation of the "anti-party group of Molotov", etc., and advocated complete unity with the Khrushchev group.'8
In The Khrushchevites after recounting the events of June 1957 and the defeat of the Molotov group, Enver Hoxha noted that:
'...No one wept over them, no one pitied them. They had lost the revolutionary spirit, were no longer Marxist-Leninists, but corpses of Bolshevism. They had united with Khrushchev and allowed mud to be thrown at Stalin and his work; they tried to do something, but not on the party road, because for them, too, the party did not exist.'9
It is, of course, true that Molotov, apprehending a split in the party and his own expulsion, had kept silent at the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956. But it is also true that four months afterwards Enver Hoxha actively assailed the policies of Stalin in vigorous terms in the spirit of the 20th Congress in the Report to the 3rd Congress of the Party of Labour of Albania.10 Enver Hoxha, moreover, did not care to recall the stand of the PLA at the fall of the Molotov group. The communique issued after the plenum of the Central Committee of the PLA of 4th July, 1957 stated that, after hearing the report of Enver Hoxha on the resolution of the CC CPSU of 29th June 1957 on the 'anti-party group', the plenum 'unanimously denounced the anti-party and factional activity of this group.'11
The Communist Party of China also gave succour to Khrushchev when the Molotov group was removed from the party leadership. The message of the CPC to the CPSU dated July 5th, 1957 noted that the Resolution of the CC of the CPSU of 29th June 1957 'will help to further the unity and consolidation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union'.12 Four months later during the course of the 40th anniversary celebration of the October Revolution held in Moscow, Mao Zedong publicly welcomed the elimination of the Molotov group and linked this with support for the entire range of 'Market Socialist' measures which were initiated by the CPSU after the 20th Congress. This is clear from his speech of November 6th, 1957 at the joint meeting of the Supreme Soviets of the USSR:
'The creative application of Marxism-Leninism by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in tackling practical tasks has ensured unbroken success in the Soviet people's construction work. The fighting programme for communist construction in the Soviet Union put forward by the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is a good example. The wise measures taken by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the question of overcoming the cult of the individual, developing agriculture, reorganising the administration of industry and construction, extending the power of the union republic and local organisations, opposing the anti-party group, consolidating unity within the party and improving the party and political work in the Soviet army and navy, will undoubtedly promote still further the consolidation and development of all undertakings in the Soviet Union.'13
The reversals for socialism and democracy which have taken place on a world scale compel the Marxists to undertake a detailed investigation of the origins and course of modern revisionism. The PLA and the CPC made great strides in this direction in the period of the Great Debate. The communist movement in this country is familiar with the open polemics between the CPSU and the CPC which took place from 1963. Yet the pioneering contributions of the PLA which initiated the Great Debate are hardly known. It was the speech of Enver Hoxha at the 1960 meeting of the Communist parties in Moscow which confronted Soviet revisionism directly for the first time.14 This inaugurated a quarter of century of unremitting polemics by the PLA directed against the entire spectrum of modern revisionism. At the same time it must be noted that the compromises of the PLA and the CPC with the CPSU under Khrushchev as well as the failure of the Marxists to analyse the economic and political developments in the Soviet Union and the people's democracies, including China and Albania, circumscribed the scope and depth of the understanding of modern revisionism. This has had negative consequences upon the communist movement right up to the current period. The unfinished tasks of theoretical and political clarification need to be taken up as a pre-requisite for the ideological arming of the Communists for the battles which lie ahead.
ReferencesResolution of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU, 29th June, 1957 in Roger Pethybridge, A Key to Soviet Politics, The Crisis of the Anti-Party Group, New York, 1962, pp. 196-202. See also: Albert Resis ed., Molotov Remembers, Inside Kremlin Politics, Conversations with Felix Chuyev, Chicago, 1993, pp. 353-58. 'Inter', 'The Historical Significance of the Twentieth Congress', Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. II, No. 1, April 1996, pp. 25-33. ed., Albert Resis, op. cit., p. 354. Resolution of the Plenum of the CC of the CPSU, 29 June 1957 in Roger Pethybridge, op. cit. These are mentioned in Molotov Remembers. See C.N. Subramaniam, 'V.M. Molotov and the Liquidation of Socialism in the USSR', Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. I, No. 1, April 1995, pp. 20-29 and V.M. Molotov: 'What is this: Irresponsibility, or Lack of Principle?' in Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. II, No. 2, September 1996, pp. 37-38. Vijay Singh, 'Stalin and the Question of Market Socialism in the Soviet Union after the Second World War' Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. I, No. 1, April 1995, p. 11, and 'Inter', op. cit. pp. 30-32. The Road to Communism, Documents of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, Moscow, 1961, pp. 128-29. Enver Hoxha, Reflections on China, Vol. 1, Tirana, 1979, p. 85. Enver Hoxha, The Khrushchevites, Memoirs, Tirana, 1980, p. 187. Enver Hodja, Report d'Activite du Comite Central du Parti du Travail d' Albanie au IIIe Congress du Parti, 25th May 1956, Tirana, 1956, pp. 180-84. Albaniya Informatsionnye Byulletin, Embassy of the People's Republic of Albania, Moscow, No. 12, 15th July 1957, p. 4. Our Translation. Message of the CC of the CPC to the CPSU, July 5th 1957, New China News Agency, Peking, July 5th 1957, in Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. I, No. 1, April, 1995, p. 24. Mao Tse-Tung, 'Speech at Moscow Celebration Meeting of the Two Soviets of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR,' People's China, Peking, December, 1957 in loc. cit. Enver Hoxha, 'Reject the Revisionist Theses of the XX Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the anti-Marxist stand of Khrushchev's Group! Uphold Marxism-Leninism! November 16 1960, in The Party of Labour in Battle with Modern Revisionism, Speeches and Articles, Tirana, 1972, pp. 3-105.
All traces of the earlier modesty on the part of Khrushchev disappeared altogether after the XX Congress - as it is said 'the hat stood erect on his head'. Having sensed that now he is the 'Leader' he, firstly, stopped carefully preparing for the meetings of the Presidium. Collective functioning was seriously undermined, and most important this led to blunders in the very basics of political and economic supervision by the Party. He went, for example, to Gorky, and all of a sudden we come to know that in a meeting he has made an announcement, that conceding to the wishes of the workers of Gorky, all the payments on government debts were being put off for 20 years. Later, however, this decision was formalised through telephonic-vote, but the main deal was done by Khrushchev himself.
Everybody is aware of the discontent that this created in the public mind and the distrust that it aroused towards the state.
For sometime now Khrushchev had become quite active on the issues of foreign policy. This was certainly very good. I had myself advised him - since Lenin's times not even a single question on foreign policy was decided without the Politbureau, and Stalin would always submit all the issues regarding foreign policy to the Politbureau, and would deal with them himself. Therefore he, as the First Secretary of the Central Committee (CC) had to follow the rule. In the beginning Khrushchev also adhered to this arrangement, but later started to act willfully. Demonstrating that he had 'mastered the techniques', as an unsurpassed 'expert' of diplomacy, Khrushchev began to insert his modifications in almost all the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or simply reject it, especially after Molotov was removed from the post of the Minister for Foreign Affairs on his proposal (even though he strictly conducted the policy of peace).
There was one question on which the Presidium did not support Molotov. It was the question regarding Yugoslavia. Molotov was holding back reestablishment of relations with Yugoslavia including along government lines. The Presidium of the CC took the decision to reestablish state relations with existing differences on Party and ideological lines. Khrushchev, violating the directives of the CC, actually went much further than the Party line.
In general Khrushchev went 'berserk' and started to give interviews to foreigners without any preliminary understanding with the Presidium, i.e., in violation of the established arrangement. Suddenly, the Presidium comes to know that Khrushchev has spoken on television on foreign affairs without having mentioned anything to anyone prior to it. This was a serious violation of all fundamental norms of supervision of foreign affairs by the Party. The Politbureau had never given such a privilege to speak in public without its prior scrutiny even to highly erudite diplomats, and here we knew the incompetence, the 'elegance' of his art of oratory, and we were concerned that he may swerve astray. This issue was raised by us in the Presidium. A long and heated discussion took place. Khrushchev promised that in the future he would, by following the existing practice, not allow such a thing to happen. After the events of 1957 and reorganisation of the Presidium he, as the overlord, the 'literary assistants' were doing the work, the modern 'robots' - they wrote and wrote, and he would read and read until his tongue would tire, but then the brain would get a rest.
But the most outstanding organisational 'talent' of Khrushchev showed up during the reorganisation of the state apparatus. I would not describe here in detail this reorganisation - it is well known. Almost all ministries were disbanded, and the Councils of Peoples' Economy were created. The idea of Councils of Peoples' Economy itself could have proved useful if the ministries were retained, even if downsized, if these Councils of Peoples' Economy were closely tied up with the territorial, Republican and provincial centres and had under their control a specific group of enterprises. Especially so in the case of local industries in the broadest sense. But, if in the beginning the contours of the Councils of Peoples' Economy coincided with those of the districts, very soon their delinking began from the same.
Some members of the Presidium of the CC proposed to set up a Supreme Council of Peoples' Economy of the USSR. Khrushchev first declared it as 'conservative resistance' to the entire reforms, and later he himself began setting up Councils of Peoples' Economy of the Republics including the Council of Peoples' Economy of the RSFSR. Later an All-Union Council of Peoples' Economy was created. Within each of these were created sectoral and territorial bodies - this was a blanket and permanent rearrangement. Later, when it became clear that this process of industrial specialisation also demands a corresponding organisation, in place of the disbanded ministries, sectoral committees were set up. Initially, they were set up within the framework of the Gosplan, and then as independent State Committees with almost the same powers and functions as the ministries (and for greater pomp given the nomenclature of a ministry, but castrated and thus powerless). Therefore these surrogate State Committees combined with the gigantic Council of Peoples' Economy were unable to withstand the severe pressures of reality. As far as the local Councils of the Peoples' Economy were concerned, I personally thought that such organs, by any name, could have existed under the district executive committee. These organs should have combined with specific group of enterprises: consumer goods, metallurgy, construction material, food products and others, so that they could fulfill a significant part of the needs of the population. They would have played an important role in territorial cooperation of enterprises, for example, manufacture of machine parts, especially for road transport, that would have been under the jurisdiction of the district executive committees, the Soviets, they should have been profitable enterprises and able to raise the living standards of the population, above all the workers.
Khrushchev, here again on the question of the Councils of the Peoples' Economy, spoiled a good idea. If properly organised they could have rendered benefits, only if it would not have been for Khrushchev's penchant for his own 'eureka' and that too on a worldwide scale.
A referendum was conducted and the proposals were accepted, but they did not show any stability.
It can be assumed, that the aim here was to attain a side, or maybe the main, effect of breaking, or in the Trotskyite parlance, of shaking up the cadre of the ministries and their local bodies and replacing the 'untrustworthy' and those not loyal to the new leadership with others, their own cadre. It is doubtful that this produced any desirable results, but this 'great' Khrushchevian reorganisation certainly did a lot of harm.
Especially absurd and in complete contradiction to the fundamentals of Party building was the division, organised on his initiative, of the supervisory provincial organs of the Party into industrial and administrative (khosiaistvennie - ed.). The damage done by this innovation is self-evident, and it needs no proof.
It is well-known that most crucial was the question of animal and stock raising. Even before the XX Congress in the Plenums of the CC and in the XX Congress itself this question was seriously debated. In the report of the CC there was a warning against a superficial approach to this question.
But after the Congress, having been unable to achieve anything substantial, Khrushchev fundamentally changed the directives of the Congress. These changes were not made according to any businesslike proposal meant for serious discussions and decision making, but again during a meeting on the occasion of the opening of the Agricultural Exhibition in the spring of 1957.
Without informing the Presidium, the CC, or the Cabinet of Ministers; not having consulted even anyone from amongst his colleagues (apparently, again in order to surprise every one), Khrushchev in the presence of all the members of the Presidium announced the new prime task of the party and the State. 'We' - he declared - 'have set our main task in the sphere of husbandry. It is to catch up and surpass the USA by 1960 in the development of animal husbandry and the total stock'. Announcing this attractive goal he did not conduct any valuation, because he simply didn't have any. 'We' - he concluded - 'can and should fulfill this task. The whole Party. the people and the collective farmers (kolkhozniki) should take it up and achieve this goal'.
This was a mere appeal in a meeting and not a thoroughly researched plan, discussed at no time and at no forum - neither at the Presidium of the CC, nor the Cabinet of Ministers. All the members of the Presidium of the CC were quite perturbed by this new and very subjective prank of Khrushchev.
Violating the traditions, the members of the Presidium did not attend the post-meeting dinner and instead went back home. Khrushchev was embarrassed, although he did approach us pretentiously as the author of a 'great idea'. The next meeting of the Presidium was called in which this issue was discussed. The members of the Presidium asked Khrushchev to put before the Presidium the calculations and measures that provide the possibility and reality of achieving the task set (by him - ed.).
Khrushchev, accepting his mistake, in essence defended his announcement but did not provide any basis or valuation.
The Presidium assigned the job of carrying out the valuation to the Gosplan and furnish the presidium with its own time frame of completing this task - catching up and surpassing the USA in the area of the total stock of large horned animals. For weeks the Gosplan carried out the calculations and in the end in one of the meetings of the Presidium of the CC it presented its findings and conclusions about the possibility of catching up with the USA on the total livestock only by 1970-1972, that is more than 10 years later than the time frame mentioned by Khrushchev.
The meeting witnessed heated debates. Khrushchev called the Gosplan conservative, was very angry, would angrily lift his small fist, but could not refute the figures worked out by the Gosplan.
The members of the Presidium were quite inclined to accept the proposals made by the Gosplan but in the Bureau it was decided to assign the Gosplan to work out the plan further. Simultaneously, the Ministry of Agriculture and the CC apparatus were assigned to work out the measures for accelerating the development of animal husbandry in the corresponding territorial regions. Unfortunately, the valuations of the Gosplan also turned out to be extremely inaccurate. As it turned out to be, animal husbandry was the most backward sector of our agriculture. Understandably, the entire blame cannot be put on Khrushchev, but his adventurism is apparent here.
Along with 'capturing positions' in the state and the affairs related to the economy, Khrushchev thought it just natural to acquire the halo of a 'democrat' and a 'cultured' person. He also started to dabble in literature and the arts. His success can be judged from just one speech of his before the events of 1957.
An outdoor dinner party was organised by the CC and the Cabinet of Ministers at one of the suburban state rest houses for writers and artists along with the members of the government and the members of the Presidium.
Before dinner people were strolling around in the park and were engaged in discussions or were taking boat rides. The ambiance was right - light and free.
For some time even after the dinner started the atmosphere continued to be light. Then the main part of the spectacle began; Khrushchev began to speak... Though this speech was later published in the press rather well, but those were 'notes'. though nobody made any stenographic notes at the dinner table (and even if the stenographic notes were to be made, we would have hardly found a lady stenographist willing to make notes of all that was said). Under usual circumstances when he would speak without a written prepared text, his speech would not always be in tune with logic, and naturally, so also the expression. And, this was no ordinary platform, and the tables were decorated with specially 'ordered' products of the glass and China industry filled with stimulating liquid for sake of 'eloquence'. One may imagine, what cultural 'fruits' were acquired through this hybrid combination of all that was present on the table with the contents of Khrushchev's head and language. It was an unsurpassed 'gem of the art of oratory'.
I would not describe the full course of his speech, but just mention what made an impression on my mind.
Firstly, Khrushchev attempted to 'chew' for the benefit of the artists and writers much of what he had already said about the personality cult of Stalin at the XX Congress of the party, only with the difference that there he had read out (the script - ed.) and here he was expressing himself and therefore appeared to be much more 'elegant'.
It must be said that the 'hot' points made were lapped up by a part of the audience as a favoured dish, for which they were even prepared to make him a Laureate of literature. I remember when Khrushchev stressed the culpability of the members of the CC, and of Molotov in particular, in specially suppressing Russian literature and arts, the author Sobolev wandered beyond all limits and, like a sailor that he was, he went almost to the limits of an aberration. But for the majority, not to speak of the leading party cadres present, all this not only created embarrassment, but also disappointment.
Khrushchev's attack on the member of the Presidium of the CC, Molotov, in the midst of non-party intellectuals was an exceptional event and had a far-reaching purpose. It is rightly said that 'a drunken man has on his tongue, what the sober has in his mind'.
The next act in his performance was the criticism of some writers who were specially picked upon. I remember that the object of his extravagant attacks were two women writers: Marietta Shaginian and the poetess Aliger. I will not write about the contents of his criticism, but in any case, it certainly was not a defence of the Party's Leninist positions in the sphere of literature and arts. One should give both Shaginian and Aliger their due - both of them afterwards spoke bravely and logically while contradicting Khrushchev. I remember what laughter it elicited among all by the very first words spoken by the somewhat plump and pretty Aliger when she turned towards Khrushchev and said 'See, it is me, that very terrible Aliger'. And in spite of all the attempts of the confidants of Khrushchev to favourably characterize his speech, it only created more confusion in the audience, than unity among those present, with the exception of, certainly, those who liked fights at the top. This is what they not just felt, but also clearly heard from this new-found 'defender' of the intelligentsia that was 'offended' by Soviet Power. However, even amongst the intelligentsia that was vacillating there was a significant section that was shocked and embarrassed by the attack on Molotov, who was considered by them as a cultured Russian intellectual. And this one, they thought, though trying to make up, is an untrustworthy ally. after all the "new Leader" is just trying too hard to become our protector.
The best of the intellectuals among those gathered went away, confused and some of them even anger.
In this way the new-born 'dialectic' Khrushchev turned a favourable event into a negative one, but for that he also managed to create new tensions in the Presidium.
If before this episode he could depend on the support of the majority in the Presidium of the CC, then after this particular speech of his with an attack on one of the members of the Presidium, it can be said straightforwardly, that the majority of the members of the Presidium became more critical in relation to Khrushchev and his methods of leadership.
According to his simplistic thinking, Khrushchev thought it was enough that the Secretariat of the CC is his fortress, what else does he need?
The majority of the members of the Presidium of the CC who for some time showed tolerance in the name of the unity of the party and the CC, in the end understood, that it is impossible to further tolerate such political mistakes and this kind of functioning of their leadership, that Khrushchev is incompetent and is hardly suitable for the role of the First Secretary of the CC, that sooner or later the party and the CC would be forced to dismiss him. Therefore, the sooner, the better.
Towards this point of time Khrushchev's relations with the other members of the Presidium became more strained. During the meeting he would rudely interrupt his colleagues. I had already talked about Molotov and Malenkov, but it also concerned Voroshilov and me - Kaganovich and others. Though, I must say that, initially, Khrushchev was restrained towards me. More than that, when he was about to go on leave in 1955, he proposed that Kaganovich be assigned to read out the report on the 36th anniversary of the October Revolution.
In 1956 he rang me up to talk about the agenda for the XX Congress. He said the following to me: Molotov wants to include the issue of the Party Programme in the agenda of the XX Congress. Apparently, he, Molotov thinks that he would be the one reading the report on this issue. But if the Party Programme is to be included in the agenda of the Congress, then I should be the one who needs to be assigned the job of reading out the report, since you are the person who has been dealing with this issue even before the XIX Congress of the party.
These facts, actually, refute the allegations made in the 1957 Plenum that I and the entire group were against Khrushchev right from the time of his (Khrushchev's - ed.) becoming the First Secretary of the CC. On the contrary, Khrushchev, while relating to me as mentioned, would at the same time be very brusque with me on very important issues, for example, when the Vice-President of the Academy of Sciences, Bardin, put in a request to the Presidium for funds for conducting various events in connection with the 'Year of Technical Progress' (that is how it was called probably) and I seconded the request. Khrushchev started shouting at me: 'So, we have a millionaire here, lots of millions you have. You are supporting him because you are friends'. Indeed, I had known Bardin since 1916 in the course of our work in Yuzovsk and in the Ministry of Heavy Industries (Narkomtiazhprom) but there was no special friendship, and I simply supported a good idea for promoting technical progress, and Khrushchev while supporting technical progress in words contradicted his own self and took a stand against the proposals of the Academy of Sciences. His rage was to became worse when the Plenum granted the request of the Academy of Sciences.
Another example: In 1955 the CC decided to establish a Committee on Labour and Wages. For the post of the chairman of this committee two candidates were put forward - Shvernik and Kaganovich. It was decided to nominate the Vice-Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Kaganovich, as the Co-Chairman of this Committee. I as a veteran of the trade union movement consented.
One of the first jobs was to work out a new law on pensions. I involved myself in this work and presented my first draft. And during the discussions in the Presidium Khrushchev condemned me for proposing extremely large, according to him, pensions. I expected objections from the Ministry of Finance, but never thought that I would be subjected to such an attack by Khrushchev who always made a demonstration of his 'humanity' and 'love for workers'.
I told him that I didn't expect him to oppose (the proposal - ed.). Trying to justify his objections in the interests of the state, he said that the state would not be able to shoulder the burden. His wrath was aggravated when I told him: 'You are not the State. The state would find reserves for the pensioners. One may, for example, cut down the inflated unproductive expenditure'. The Presidium established a committee headed by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Bulganin, which accepted the draft with certain corrections. Bulganin gave a report at the session of the Supreme Soviet based on this draft. Here again Khrushchev contradicted himself.
I can cite many more examples of his attacks on other members of the Presidium. For example very good and competent and so to say loyal members of the Presidium like Pervukhin and Saburov were driven to extreme frustration by the exaggerated display of his 'creativity' by Khrushchev in all questions - both known to him and unknown, and obviously the latter kind were much more. A time came when as they say in Ukrainian that 'patience shattered' (that is to lose patience) not so much from any personal frustration as due to the wrong approach of Khrushchev on crucial issues in which objective conditions were not a consideration for him.
And then in one of the meetings of the Presidium in the second half of June the dissatisfaction of the members of the Presidium of the CC exploded into the open.
I recall that the question of preparations for the harvest and grain collection was on the agenda of this meeting. Khrushchev proposed that the question regarding the visit of the entire Presidium of the CC to Leningrad on the occasion of its 250th anniversary should also be included in the agenda. Voroshilov was the first to make objections after the discussion on the grain collection. Why, he asked, should all the members of the Presidium go, don't they have other things to look after? I voiced support for Voroshilov's doubts and added that we have a lot to do in connection with the preparation for the harvesting and grain collection. Most probably a number of members of the Presidium could go to different areas and Khrushchev himself would need to go to the virgin lands where a lot is yet to be done. I said that we have deep respect for the people of Leningrad and that they would not be angry with us if only some members of the Presidium visit Leningrad. Such doubts were also voiced by Malenkov, Molotov, Bulganin and Saburov. And then Khrushchev stood up and started chastising one member of the Presidium after another. He got so carried away that even Mikoyan, who was adept at 'fast manoeuvring', had to pacify Khrushchev. At this point of time the members of the Presidium stood up and declared that it is impossible to work in this way - and let us first discuss Khrushchev's behaviour.
A proposal was made that the chairmanship of this meeting be given to Bulganin. It was accepted by the majority in the Presidium, and certainly, without any prior conspiracy.
After Bulganin took up the place of the chairman, Malenkov was the first to address the house. 'You know comrades', Malenkov said, 'that we supported Khrushchev. I and comrade Bulganin proposed to elect Khrushchev as the First Secretary of the CC. But now I can see that I made a mistake. He has shown his inability to head the CC. He is committing mistake after mistake in his work, he has become arrogant, his attitude towards the members of the CC has become intolerable, especially after the XX Congress. He is displacing the state apparatus and directly issues orders superseding the Council of Ministers. This not Party supervision over the Soviet organs. We should take a decision to relieve Khrushchev from his responsibility as the First Secretary of the CC'.
This is a very short description of the speech by Malenkov as of other comrades too.
It was Comrade Voroshilov who spoke after Malenkov. He said that he willingly voted for electing Khrushchev as the First Secretary of the CC and also extended his full support in the course of daily work, but he started to make mistakes. 'I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to relieve Khrushchev of the responsibilities of the First Secretary of the CC. Comrades, it has become impossible to work with him'. He described how and when Khrushchev had shouted at him, acted brashly and even rudely. 'We cannot anymore tolerate all this. Let us decide' - he concluded.
Kaganovich spoke after Voroshilov. 'The issue under consideration is difficult and painful. I wasn't among those who proposed the name of Khrushchev for the First Secretary of the CC, because I know him for a long time with all his positive and negative characteristics. But I voted for the proposal, as I considered that responsibility obliges the leader to grow in the process of work. I knew Khrushchev as a modest person and a tenacious learner, who grew and came to be an able leader at the Republican, provincial and the Union level as a secretary of the CC in the collective Secretariat of the CC.
'After his election as the First Secretary he demonstrated for some time his positive characteristics, and then his negative characteristics began to surface more and more - both in the resolution of party tasks and in relation to people. I, as the other comrades too, spoke about his good work and pointed out his mistakes on the issues of planning of the national economy where Khrushchev's subjective and voluntarist approach was most prominent, as well as on issues of party and state leadership and supervision. Therefore, I support the proposal to relieve comrade Khrushchev of the responsibilities of the First Secretary of the CC. This, certainly, does not mean that he would not be a part of the leadership of the party. I think that Khrushchev would take his lesson and raise the level of his activities to a new height.'
But there is another side to the behaviour of Khrushchev which must be criticised. Khrushchev, as it is now established was forging a fraction of his own in the Secretariat of the CC. He was systematically discrediting the Presidium and its members, criticised them not only in the Presidium itself which is absolutely acceptable and necessary but also in the Secretariat of the CC, directing his attacks against the Presidium which was the highest organ of the Party between the Plenums of the CC. These activities of Khrushchev actually harm the unity, for the sake of which the Presidium had until now tolerated the antics of Khrushchev. This needs to be reported at the Plenum of the CC which needs to be convened. I would add one mere important, according to me, fact. At one of the meetings of the Presidium Khrushchev said 'The case of Zinoviev, Kamenev and other Trotskyites needs to be dealt with'. At which I remarked 'let anyone else's cow moo, but yours must be silent.' Khrushchev exploded and began to shout 'What are you hinting at. I am fed up of all this.'
At that time in the Presidium I did not clarify what I was hinting at, but I would explain now. Khrushchev was a Trotskyite during 1923-1924. In 1925 he reviewed his views and confessed his sins. In the year 1925 itself I got acquainted with him in Donbass and I saw in him a genuine Leninist - a follower of the line of the CC of the CPSU(b). His role first as the secretary of the CC of the Ukraine and then as the secretary of the CC of the CPSU in charge of the cadres played a prominent role in furthering his political career. I valued him as a capable worker of the party who had come out of the ranks of the workers. I did so because I thought that the party and the CC does not prevent people, who have made mistakes in the past but have overcome them, to grow.
I informed Stalin about this, when at the Moscow conference Khrushchev was elected to the post of the secretary. Along with Khrushchev I met Stalin, and he (Stalin - ed.) suggested that Khrushchev speak about himself at the conference, and Kaganovich would confirm that the CC knows about it and trusts Khrushchev. This is how it happened. Certainly, the mistakes of the past are forgiven and not cited incessantly.
The remarks made to Khrushchev at that time implied that he was a recidivist, and we were reminding him of old sins so that such relapses were not repeated.
Molotov spoke after Kaganovich. 'However hard Khrushchev tried to provoke me', Molotov said, 'I did not give in to any aggravation of our relationship. But it appears that it is not possible to tolerate it any more. Khrushchev has not only aggravated personal relations but also the relations within the Presidium as a whole in decision-making on crucial state and party matters.' Comrade Molotov talked in detail on the issue of reorganisation of management, considering it to be incorrect, and also talked about the erroneous view that he was against the (development of - ed.) the virgin lands. It was incorrect. What is true is that he objected to an unrestrained increase immediately to 20-30 million hectares, that it was better to concentrate in the beginning on 10-20 million, make appropriate arrangements in order to develop properly and obtain high returns. Comrade Molotov also refuted the allegations that he was putting obstacles in the policy of peace, and that, evidently, this fallacy was needed for justifying the necessary steps in the sphere of foreign policy. His stand on Yugoslavia was related not to issues of foreign policy, but to the anti- party and anti-Soviet actions of the Yugoslavs, for which we criticised and continue to criticise them. 'It is impossible to work with Khrushchev as the First Secretary,' said Molotov, 'I am for relieving Khrushchev of the responsibilities of the First Secretary of the CC.'
Bulganin spoke after Molotov. He began speaking by giving an account of the improper methods of supervision of the functioning of the state organs, including the Council of Ministers and about the unfriendly attitude towards him personally. He spoke about the mistakes in a number decisions. 'I,' concluded Bulganin, 'fully agree with the proposal to relieve Khrushchev.'
Comrades Pervukhin and Saburov also spoke. Both of them declared that earlier they had good relations with Khrushchev, as Khrushchev with them. 'But now we see that Khrushchev has become arrogant and makes it difficult for us to work. Khrushchev should be removed.'
Comrade Mikoyan, true to his tactics of manoeuvering, said that it is a fact that there are shortcomings in the way Khrushchev works, but they can be rectified, and therefore, he considers that it is not necessary to remove Khrushchev.
Khrushchev spoke after us. He refuted some of the accusations, but without being arrogant, almost, so to say, in embarrassment. Some of the complaints he accepted to be true and, indeed, that there was improper behaviour towards the colleagues on his part, there were incorrect decisions made, but I promise the Presidium that I will rectify these mistakes.
The secretaries of the CC - Brezhnev, Suslov, Furtseva and Pospelov - spoke in favour of Khrushchev. While admitting that there are shortcomings, they said that they would rectify these.
Shepilov was the only one amongst all the secretaries of the CC who spoke differently. He honestly, truthfully and convincingly described the unacceptable atmosphere of fault-finding with and discrediting the Presidium that has been generated by Khrushchev in the Secretariat of the CC. Khrushchev would especially denigrate Voroshilov 'as a weary and conservatively outdated' leader. (At the same time Khrushchev hypocritically showed superficial respect and devotion for Voroshilov.) Shepilov spoke about a range of wrong decisions of the Secretariat that were taken without the knowledge of the Presidium of the CC. Practically Khrushchev had converted the Secretariat of the CC into an organ functioning independently of the Presidium of the CC.
The Presidium met for four days. Bulganin conducted the meetings in the most democratic way, he did not put any limits on the time required by the speakers allowing even the secretaries of the CC to speak a second time.
In the meanwhile the Khrushchevite Secretariat, secretly without the knowledge of the presidium summoned the members of the CC to Moscow, having sent dozens of airplanes through the GPU and the Ministry of Defence which fetched the members to Moscow. And this was done without any decision of the Presidium and even without waiting for the Presidium to come to any decision on the issue under discussion. This was an unquestionable act of factionalism, clever and in the Trotskyite traditions.
The majority of the Presidium did not consist of simpletons or bad organisers. If they had taken to the path of factional struggle, something which they were accused of later, they could have got organized or to put it simply, removed Khrushchev. But we were criticising Khrushchev as a party member, and strictly observed all the party norms with the aims of maintaining party unity.
But Khrushchev acted as a factionalist. Towards the end of the meeting of the Presidium of the CC a delegation with Konev at its head, on behalf of those assembled in the Sverdlov Hall, came and announced that the members of the Plenum of the CC are asking the Presidium to report to the Plenum about the issue being discussed in the Presidium. Some of the members of the Presidium reacted angrily to this act of calling the members of the CC to Moscow without the permission of the Presidium of the CC, an act of usurpation on the part of the Secretariat of the CC and, obviously, Khrushchev himself.
Comrade Saburov who had earlier worshipped Khrushchev remarked angrily: 'I considered you Comrade Khrushchev, to be an honest person. Now I see that I was mistaken. You are a very dishonest person, who, using factionalist means, behind the back of the Presidium, has organised this assembly in the Sverdlov Hall'.
After a short break the Presidium of the CC decided to discontinue the meeting of the Presidium and to go and meet the members of the CC in the hall, despite the fact that they had blatantly violated the party norms, as a demonstration of their (Presidium's - ed.) respect for the members of the CC who are waiting for them in the Sverdlov Hall.
Throwing away the mask of embarrassment, an emboldened Khrushchev accompanied by Zhukov and Serov marched into the Hall.
One may well imagine the internal psychological condition of the members of the Plenum of the CC who were brought to Moscow in such an extraordinary way. Even before the Plenum proceedings had started the members of the CC were obviously informed about the meeting of the Plenum started, instead of the report on the meeting of the Presidium of the CC, which the members of the CC were expecting, they were treated to the 'dish' of 'On the anti-Party group of Malenkov, Kaganovich and Molotov'.
Instead of the issue 'the unsatisfactory leadership of the First Secretary of the CC, Khrushchev', one completely opposite to this and a totally imaginary one 'On the anti-Party group of Malenkov, Kaganovich and Molotov' was put on the agenda.
The report on the Presidium of the CC and the issue under discussion in this meeting of the Presidium was for all practical purposes not made but a great many political accusations were made against an imaginary anti-Party group of Malenkov, Kaganovich and Molotov and their accomplice Shepilov, Candidate to the Presidium of the CC.
Feeling the absurdity of the situation - declaring the entire Presidium guilty of factionalism, the Khrushchevite accusers took to the cunning falsehood of 'the group of three' Malenkov, Kaganovich and Molotov, naming them from amongst the seven members of the Presidium who spoke against Khrushchev, denounced him and demanded his removal (from amongst the rest of the four - Voroshilov, Bulganin, Pervukhin and Saburov - the first three were reelected to the Presidium of the CC).
In this manner, having pointed out three persons - Malenkov, Kaganovich and Molotov, an attempt was made to conceal that out of nine members of the Presidium only two; Mikoyan and Khrushchev himself were in favour of keeping Khrushchev as the First Secretary and the majority comprising seven members favoured removing Khrushchev for poor implementation of the political line of the CC of the Party in practice.
Later the 'victors' invented a new argument that, in view of the arithmetical majority, this group wanted to change the composition of the leading organs of the Party and alter the policies of the Party. But, firstly, it is absurd to talk about an arithmetical majority - what other majority can there possibly be while deciding one or the other issue? It is true that the majority in the Presidium of the CC favoured removal of Khrushchev, but is it that the composition of the leading organs of the Party consists only of Khrushchev alone? Is it not true that the entire Presidium is also a leading organ of the party between successive Plenums of the CC? Therefore it is ridiculous to talk and write that the Presidium wanted to replace the leading organs of the party, that is to replace its own self.
The result is known: the proposed draft of the resolution was accepted, that was published in Pravda. 'On the anti-Party group of Malenkov G.M. Kaganovich L.M. and Molotov V.M.'
In the resolution adopted it said that 'this group by anti-party and factionalist methods wanted to achieve replacement...' Is it possible to call the majority of the Presidium a faction? There are no facts given about factionalist methods, there were none; there were no groups, no special meetings of any groups neither before nor after the official meeting of the Presidium and there was no conspiracy. Had there been any faction, we are not all that bad organisers to have landed in such a situation, so that Khrushchev and his faction could have thus fooled us - the majority of the Presidium. It was actually Khrushchev and his accomplices who in an organised manner acted as a faction, having called secretly the members of the CC, without the knowledge of the Presidium of the CC. And we were not a faction but the majority, that defended the unity of the CC. We met and discussed and proved our points and strove to come to a decision without the factional cunningness used by Khrushchev and his sly advisors.
One can say that after all Khrushchev is a shrewd person. Yes, but this is Trotskyite and anti-party shrewdness. However, realising that by identifying only three members of the Presidium and then expelling them from the CC and its Presidium and sticking on them the factionalist and anti-party label is not convincing for the Party, the new Khrushchevite leadership, even before it was elected, composed the draft of the resolution of the Plenum of the CC full of falsehoods and political allegations against the so-called anti-Party group of Malenkov, Kaganovich and Molotov.
The draft was full of accusations which are not even worth being refuted, because they are all imaginary...
This was an anti-Party and anti-Leninist reprisal against veteran leaders of the party and the Soviet government, a reprisal for daring to criticise Khrushchev the First Secretary of the CC, who fancied himself to have become indispensable.
Translated from the Russian by Ranjana Saxena and Tahir Asghar.
Courtesy, Lazar Kaganovich Pamyatnye Zapiski, Vagrius, Moscow, 1996.
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