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Exorcising Stalin

Mar 2 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan) - In one of his books, Mohamed Heikal, the Egyptian journalist who died last month at the age of 92, records an extraordinary encounter in 1964 between Gamal Abdel Nasser and Nikita Khrushchev.

The Soviet leader was visiting Egypt to attend ceremonies marking the completion of the first phase of the Aswan High Dam project, which Moscow had helped to build after the Americans withdrew an offer to fund it. For years, a bone of contention in relations between the two leaders had been the tendency of Arab nationalist leaders to suppress local communists, notably in Egypt, Syria and Iraq.

When the subject came up yet again one morning, Nasser, evoking Khrushchev`s excoriating critique of Josef Stalin six years earlier, noted: `When you tell us that we cannot attack communists, how is it that you yourself attack Stalin? We attack bad communists and Stalin is a good example of a bad communist.

`I can attack Stalin,` retorted a livid Khrushchev, `but you cannot attack Stalin! You have no right to attack him! According to Heikal, the `heated row` went on for six hours, and the Soviet leader emerged from it with a better understanding of the forces driving Arab nationalism.

It was 60 years ago last week that Khrushchev delivered his `secret speech` at a special late-night closed session tagged on to the 20th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). His acknowledgement of Stalin`s crimes and sharp critique of the Stalinist personality cult was a watershed in more than one respect.

He made it clear at the outset that, three years after the dictator`s demise, he had come to bury Stalin, not to praise him, because there had been no dearth of panegyrics in the preceding decades. He mockingly pointed out the absurd levels to which Stalin-worship had been taken and declared that the trend had been personally dictated by the deceased leader.

Khrushchev took no issue with the `political-ideological` struggle against `the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc` and the `Bukharinites` in the 1920s, but noted that the mass repressions of the early 1930s were inaugurated after that battle had decisively been won. He hinted strongly that the Kremlin had a hand in the 1934 murder of Leningrad party leader Sergei Kirov, which served as an excuse for the state terror that followed, claiming the lives of a substantial majority of those elected to the central committee at the 17th party congress earlier that year.

At least equally devastating was the line of attack whereby Khrushchev blamed Stalin for the disarray sparked off by the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Adolf Hitler`s hordes were able to advance to the gates of Moscow because, despite any number of unheeded warnings, the Soviets were caught unprepared, while all too many of the Red Army`s most competent officers had fallen victim to Stalin`s paranoia.

Furthermore, Stalin personally was petrified by the German violation of the NaziSoviet pact, and initially assumed it was all over for his nation. It was two years before the tide began to turn, largely despite Stalin`s leadership rather than because of it.

The demolition of Stalin`s record as a war leader may have come as the greatest shock to Khrushchev`s audience. The script of his speech, which wasn’t officially reproduced in its entirety until 1989, records moments of `animation` and indignation among the apparatchiks, but not the fact that several people had to be carried or assisted out of the auditorium. Heart attacks are believed to have accounted for some of the attrition.

Among the communist movement internationally, Khrushchev`s speech was well received in some spheres (Italy, for instance) and viewed with extreme consternation in others, notably in China and Albania.

Domestically, its contents were communicated to party members throughout the length and breadth of the USSR. Among those entrusted with its dissemination in the Stavropol region was a Komsomol activist, freshly graduated from Moscow University, by the name of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Khrushchev was ousted shortly after the aforementioned clash with Nasser and reassessments of Stalin stalled during the extended period of economic and ideological stagnation under Leonid Brezhnev and co., but there was no return to the level of repression witnessed in the 1934-53 period. Many of the architects of the Prague Spring in 1968 and, almost two decades later, Soviet perestroika and glasnost cited the wasted window of opportunity under Khrushchev as an inspiration.

For all their flaws, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to look upon Khrushchev (who died in obscurity in 1971) and Gorbachev (who turns 85 today) as noble failures. A reminder of grievous shortfalls in exorcising the spirit of Stalin came just last month when activists putting up plaques in Moscow to commemorate some of the tyrant`s innumerable victims encountered sporadic resistance from those who simply didn`t want to know in some cases no doubt because it clashes with their hopelessly inaccurate image of a Stalinist golden era.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

 
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  • Hatuxka

    The author displays one of the most thoroughly colonized minds I have ever seen. Puke-inducing rubbish.

    “the absurd levels to which Stalin-worship had been taken and declared that the trend had been personally dictated by the deceased leader”
    >an absurd lie by Khruschev, who cited no examples of any “dictation” on this by Stalin. No evidence at all, although he cites putative evidence (ALL of it fabricated or based on distortions) elsewhere on other points in the speech. There is real documentation that Stalin opposed anything like a cult.

    “Khrushchev took no issue with the `political-ideological` struggle against `the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc` and the `Bukharinites` in the 1920s”
    Utter nonsense. Khrushchev “rehabilitated” all these people on virtually no exculpatory evidence and against a massive amount of evidence of their guilt, confirmed by non-Soviet evidence–if that’s what it takes to float your boat.

    “Khrushchev noted that the mass repressions of the early 1930s were inaugurated after that battle had decisively been won…”
    Trotsky engaged in a conspiracy with the Zinovievite bloc and Bukharin and others, that began in 1932 and continued until it was detected later in the 30s, confirmed by evidence in HIS OWN ARCHIVE that were found despite that he or his closest

    employees had removed documents from the archive.

    {Khrushchev} hinted strongly that the Kremlin had a hand in the 1934 murder of Leningrad party leader Sergei Kirov
    He had access to the evidence (which unlike Stalin, he blocked other central committee from seeing). So why did he have to “hint”? No, he was lying because the evidence (again confessions, and non-Soviet evidence) shows that the Trotskyite bloc conspired to kill Kirov.

    “…an excuse for the state terror that followed, claiming the lives of a substantial majority of those elected to the central committee at the 17th party congress earlier that year.”
    This is more ignorant nonsense. The evidence shows that the head of the NKVD at the time, a conspirator, oversaw torture, fabricated confessions and judicial murder of many party members to both cover up any suspicion he was involved and to stir up discontent in the party and country as part of furthering the conspiracy. He worked party regional first secretaries (Khruschev was one in this period, and who had a record of massive numbers repressed) to step up repressions. He was to be arrested and executed for this and being part of the conspiracy that included collaboration with Nazi Germany and Japan.

    “…unheeded warnings, the Soviets were caught unprepared, while all too many of the Red Army`s most competent officers had fallen victim to Stalin`s paranoia.”
    Too many? Probably too few, based on the level of the conspiracy that included top generals and subordinates conspiring with Germany and Japan to overthrow the Soviet Union, again made evident by trial evidence and non-Soviet evidence” Stalin did heed warnings, but no one knew just when the attack would occur–the victorious Soviet generals endorsed his miltary leadership skills long after the secret speech of Khruschhev.

    “The script of his speech, which wasn’t officially reproduced in its entirety until 1989, records moments of `animation` and indignation among the apparatchiks…”
    This is especially silly. It was admitted by everyone involved that the “moments of ‘animation'” were added later. No one present witnessed any such thing.

    “Among those entrusted with its dissemination in the Stavropol region was a Komsomol activist, freshly graduated from Moscow University, by the name of Mikhail Gorbachev.”
    Doesn’t that figure? The capitulator to the most destructive elements within Soviet society who would bring the country to it’s knees.

    Khrushchev was removed because he was what he falsely accused Stalin of being! Brezhnev was a disciple of Khrushchev, so what else but “stagnation” could be expected?

    “Khrushchev…Gorbachev…as noble failures” “Noble”? Despised rather.

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