Some Observations on the Personality of Khrushchev

L.M. Kaganovich

End of 80s

I consider it necessary to reply to the question posed by some of my friends and to others who criticize me for the fact that it was mainly I who promoted Khrushchev over a number of years.

As the Secretary of the Central Committee I was in charge of the work related to Party cadre and promoted a number of capable people especially from the working class. That is how I met Khrushchev. In 1925, I, as a newly elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Ukraine, left Kharkov on a visit to our industrial centre of Donbas, primarily for Yuzovka where I had worked underground till the Revolution. After visiting a number of mines, plants, villages and districts I participated in the Okrug Party Conference. It was during the conference that a delegate of the conference comrade Khrushchev came to me. He said to me, 'You don't know me, but I know you, you visited us... in the beginning of 1917 as comrade Kosherovich. I have come to you with a personal problem: it is hard for me to work here, the fact is that in 1923 and 1924 I was supporting the Trotskyites, but at the end of 1924 I understood my mistake and admitted it. I was even elected the Secretary of the district committee. But I am reminded of it all the time, especially comrade Moisinko from the Regional Committee keeps reminding me of it. Our delegation has nominated me to the presidium of the conference. Here I was requesting you, as the General Secretary of the Central Committee. of the Ukraine, to help me and send me to another place'.

Khrushchev created a good impression on me. I liked his straight forwardness and sensible assessment of his position. I promised him that on my arrival at Kharkov I would think over as to where to transfer him. Shortly after my assistant reported to me that comrade Khrushchev, who had come from Donbas, was ringing from the station and asking if I would receive him. I said let him come. I at once received him. I still remember how he thanked me for the fact that I had received him straight away. He said, 'I thought that I will have to wait for long'.

Having noticed that he was looking pale I asked, 'You, probably, are straight way coming from the train and are hungry'. He smiled and said, 'You are, it appears, quick at observing things. I really haven't eaten anything since long'. 'Then you have something to eat and we will talk later'.

He was served tea and sandwiches which he ate with great appetite. I asked him, 'How would you like it if we now take you into the Central Committee as an instructor in the organisational section of the Central Committee and later we will see, may be, there arises an opportunity to work locally.' 'This' he said 'is rather too much for me. I have just come to Kharkov and then and there I'm absorbed in the Central Committee but once you have expressed such an opinion, then I am, of course, very thankful for this trust and I am certainly ready'.

After some time I observed that he was an able worker, and having found out that fresh people were required in the Kiev Regional Committee, I sent him to Kiev as an instructor of the Central Committee, and there he was elected as the head of the organisational section of the Regional Committee. He worked there up to 1929.

During this time I was already working again in the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPSU(B) (Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) in Moscow. And in 1929, once again I was told that Comrade Khrushchev had come from Kiev and enquired whether I would receive him. I received him without any delay. He requested me to support him as he wished to join the Stalin Industrial Academy. He said, 'I studied in the workers' faculty but could not complete my studies as I was taken for party work. And now I seriously want to study in the Industrial Academy. They can fail me in the examination but I request you to give me this privilege and I promise that I will catch up'. In the Industrial Academy there were many party workers: who were also partially exempted from the exams, and I, after consulting comrades Kuibyshev and Molotov, rang up and requested the Academy to admit Comrade Khrushchev.

When, in 1930, I had already been elected as the secretary of the Moscow Committee of the party while still holding the position of the Secretary of the Central Committee, I had to deal with the different Party cells of the Industrial Academy things were not going well there. Having come to one of the cells and met its most active members, I listened to many protests against the unsatisfactory work of the cell's Bureau and its secretary. Khrushchev was among those protesting. After consulting the District Committee we nominated Comrade Khrushchev as the secretary of the cell. During this time the struggle with the right -wing deviation had intensified, and Khrushchev proved himself very capable in this struggle. In the conference of the District Committee of the Bauman region, the District Committee had been re-elected and Comrade Khrushchev was its secretary. After some time we required a new secretary for a major region Krasnopresnensk, and we decided to nominate Comrade Khrushchev as the secretary of the Krasnopresnensk District Committee. Again after a while when there was a need of a second secretary for the Moscow Committee, I, as the First Secretary, nominated Comrade Khrushchev. Later on he was nominated as the First Secretary of the Moscow City Committee of the Party (which was then a part of the region, therefore Khrushchev remained the secretary of the Moscow Committee as well).

I remember when I consulted Comrade Stalin on this issue, I told him that Khrushchev was a good Party worker and about the Trotskyite past of Khrushchev in 1923-1924. Comrade Stalin asked, 'And did he overcome these mistakes?' I replied, 'Not only has he overcome them but he has been actively struggling against them'. 'Well then' - Stalin said 'promote him, especially when he is a good party worker'. I remember when I was later on dining with him at his home, Stalin asked his wife,' Nadya, is this the same Khrushchev from the Industrial Academy of whom you said that he is a good Party Worker?' 'Yes', she answered 'Indeed it is he' Later Comrade Khrushchev was asked to come to the Secretariat meeting of the Central Committee where Comrade Stalin said, 'As far as your error of the past is concerned, you talk about it at the time of the elections in the Conference, and Comrade Kaganovich will say that the Central Committee knows about this and has faith in Comrade Khrushchev'. And that is what was done.

Khrushchev worked well in Moscow and justified the trust. After Moscow Comrade Khrushchev was sent by the Central Committee to the Ukraine where he worked as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and as the Chairman of the Council of Peoples' Commissars. He did a lot for the development of the Ukraine through industrialization, collectivization the struggle against the enemies including the 'Trotskyites, the 'rightists' and nationalists. As all others, of course, he too made mistakes and had shortcomings. Khrushchev proved himself competent during the Patriotic War as a member of the military council of the front.

In 1947 the Central Committee of the CPSU (B) considered it necessary to divide the functions of the First Secretary of the Central Committee and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic due to the seriousness of the situation in the Ukraine. The Central Committee sent the secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU(B) and the member of the Politbureau Comrade L.M. Kaganovich to the Ukraine as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of the Ukraine. I remember how Khrushchev, being annoyed and perhaps even hurt by the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU(B), happily met me personally and said, 'I am very happy that it is you who has been sent as the First Secretary'. I, of course, promised him that my task was to help him and the Central Committee of the Communist Party(B) of the Ukraine. And that is how it was, we worked quite amicably.

On my return to Moscow from the Ukraine, I gave a report to Comrade Stalin about the situation in the Ukraine which had improved a bit but it was still a difficult one. I requested him to render additional aid to the Ukraine and he conceded this. Afterwards, Comrade Stalin asked me about Khrushchev. I gave are impartial and good assessment of him, and pointed out that like everybody he certainly had some drawbacks particularly I mentioned his display of self-confidence and a know-all attitude, but he had grown into an important and leading worker with a capacity to grow further.

I must say that exactly at this time Stalin was intensively looking for and encouraging able and efficient people. For example, he was following and assessing the work of Pervukhin, Kosygin, Malenkov etc. He earlier had taken notice of Malenkov when we had brought him from the Moscow Committee where he had worked as the head of the organisation, and appointed him later the Chief of the organisational cell of the Central Committee. In the same manner Stalin turned his attention to Khrushchev.

Soon, the Central Committee transferred Khrushchev from the Ukraine to Moscow as the secretary of the Moscow Committee and later as the secretary of the Central Committee.

Moreover, right from the beginning of the 50s, Stalin had started bringing Khrushchev nearer. In 1951-52, right till the death of Stalin, Khrushchev and Malenkov remained special guests of Stalin at the Blizhny country-cottage.

Even now sometimes I am asked whether I regret bringing in and introducing Khrushchev. I reply, 'No, I don't regret it. He has grown up before my eyes since 1925 and became an important and widely known regional leader. Our State and Party have tremendously benefited from him. Of course he did err and had some drawbacks, but then no one is perfect. However, the 'watch-tower' the position of the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B) turned out to be too high for him. (Here I was not the initiator of his promotion, though I voted 'for' him. There are people who feel 'dizzy' at great heights. Khrushchev turned out to be one of that kind of person. Having found himself on the highest watch-tower his head began to swim which proved dangerous for him, and especially for the Party and State as he was clearly found lacking in cultural and theoretical grounding. Modesty and self-education, which were earlier his qualities, seemed to have been left behind subjectivism, a know-all attitude coupled with 'heuristics' seemed to have taken possession of his conduct instead, and this certainly cannot lead someone to any good. This and many other things led to the fall of Khrushchev from the watch-tower.

The above-mentioned lines about Khrushchev were written by me before I came to know about the publication of the 'memoirs' of Khrushchev. When they were published in America, I could not read them as I couldn't get hold of them in Moscow.

When I asked Comrade Molotov whether he had read these memoirs, he said he had read them. To my specific question as to what he thought about them, he replied, 'This is an anti-party document'. Then I asked, 'Has Khrushchev really fallen to that level?' Molotov answered, 'Yes. Yes, in his bitterness, and in view of the end of his career as a State leader he has sunk to that level and it is indeed a fall to the very bottom both from the political and party point of view'. When I said with regret and perturbation, 'Yes, it is very sad indeed,' Molotov said, 'It's you who had promoted him'. 'Yes', I said, 'I promoted him, it is a fact, but up to a certain point and I did not appoint him to the post of the First Secretary of the Central Committee because I knew that he would not be able to cope with this work and that he would fail. In the end, all of you, including you, Vyacheslav, had accepted this proposal put up by Malenkov and Bulganin'.

Having read the so-called Memoirs of Khrushchev published in 'Ogonyok', I was convinced that Molotov's assessment was correct. And I don't feel like replying to him as I didn't wish to sink to the level of the women in the bazaar who shouts, 'Very cheap'. Personally I had nourished very tender and affectionate feelings for him, but, apparently, I was mistaken. It turned out that Khrushchev did not prove to be a simple chameleon, but a 'recidivist' of Trotskyism.

Courtesy: Lazar Kaganovich, 'Pamyatnye Zapiski', Vagrius, Moscow, 1996, pp. 565-68.

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