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Khrushchev's Decline and Fall.

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Khrushchev's Decline and Fall The most important achievement of the XX Party Congress of 1956 was Krushchev's so-called "secret speech " in which he attacked and denouced the errors and brutalities of Joseph Stalin. No one had dared to do that before. It was the central most important event of the decade. It in effect made Khrushchev the father of the later Gorbachev Revolution. I. The XXI Party Congress The XXI Special Party Congress met against a background of successes for Nikita Khrushchev. He had consolidated his victory over the "anti-Party group" by removing Bulganin from the Presidium in September 1958; in December he had named as new chief of the KGB A. N. Shelepin. Khrushchev had other reasons for feeling confident. In 1958 the USSR had the best harvest in its history. In November 1958 his threat to hand Berlin over to the East Germans within six months had spread alarm in all Western capitals - though he did not carry through the threat. In January 1959 Fidel Castro had seized Cuba with strong Communist support, and thereafter identified himself with Communism and the USSR. There had also been several significant domestic innovations of Khrushchev's. In April 1958. just as the American clamor for imitation of Soviet schools was reaching its height, he severely criticized the educational system for failing to meet the needs of socialist construction and called for greater emphasis on physical labor and actual part-time work in factories as part of the curricular pattern; such a program was enacted in December. Actually the program was soon a dead letter, except for the limitation of compulsory schooling to eight years and in its consequence the abandonment of the 1956 decision to extend full secondary education to all. Another important step in agriculture was taken by the abolition of the Machine Tractor Stations, which act the kolkhozy welcomed because it turned over farm machinery to them, but the results were dubious because they had to assume the great financial burden of paying for it and because complex equipment could not be properly maintained on most collective farms.


were seized and confined on the grounds of "mental instability," thus recalling Nicholas I's treatment of Peter Chaadaev in 1836. A few others, such as Joseph Brodsky, were exiled under the "anti-parasite laws". For the most part, however, Khrushchev's regime confined itself to verbal warnings and refusals to publish or exhibit, and the limits of the permissible, though fluctuating, were certainly broader than before Stalin's death. Some of the dissident writers and artists--notably Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn--had religious convictions, and there was enough of a revival of interest in religion among Soviet youth to provoke a campaign of repression beginning in 1959. During the next five years perhaps half of the remaining 20,000 Orthodox churches and all of the monasteries except for perhaps fifteen were closed. In June 1960 the first show trial of an Orthodox clergyman since 1927 was held: the defendant, the archbishop of Kazan, was sentenced to prison. Apparently because he refused to cooperate in the new crackdown, Metropolitan Nicholas Krutitsy, the long-time mainstay of church collaboration with the regime, fell from favor, was deprived of his offices in 1960, and died mysteriously the following year. The beginning of resistance to religious repression appeared in 1961 in the formation of the Initiative Group (Initsiativniki) within the Baptist-Evangelical Christian Council. Repeated statements by high Party officials reminded their hearers that to be a Communist was to be an atheist, but even some of the rank-and-file showed disturbing hesitation on that apparently obvious point. III. The XXII Party Congress Khrushchev had tried to follow up Chinese submission at the XXI Congress with action. Indications are that in July 1959 Marshal P'eng Teh-huai and others, with Soviet backing, tried to remove Mao as chairman of the Chinese party. They failed, and P'eng was purged. But the Chinese internal offensive had brought the economy near collapse, and Mao was unable to press a counterattack. His regime faced a full-scale revolution in Tibet in March 1959 that required months to put down.


Mao told some Japanese socialist visitors in August 1964 that the USSR was an imperialist state, that "the Russians took everything they could" in Eastern Europe and in Northeastern Asia, and that the Kurile islands should be returned immediately to Japan. The previous month the Soviets had laid plans for an international Communist conclave to condemn China. If foreign affairs were not going well, neither were domestic affairs. In November 1962 a division of the party was announced into industrial and agricultural sections, but no one knew how to make this work, especially after the sovnarkhozy were made much larger by being reduced in number to forty-seven early in 1963. Agriculture was not doing well, and a bad harvest in 1963 resulted in the humiliation of having to import grain. Restrictions on the private plots, decline of private livestock holdings, and conversions of kolkhozy into sovkhozy produced agrarian stagnation. Corn, "virgin lands," and other expedients had not worked. A better idea, if still no panacea, was being bruited by Khrushchev at the very end: large-scale increase of fertilizer production. But his colleagues had lost patience. He returned from a vacation in the Crimea to be greeted on October 14, 1964, with the news that his resignation had been accepted. The next day Pravda reported the news and denounced "hare-brained schemes; half-baked conclusions and hasty decisions and actions, divorced from reality; bragging and bluster; attraction to rule by fiat; unwillingness to take into account what science and practical experience have already discovered .... " Thus ran the political obituary of the colorful and crude little man who had brought the world to the very verge of war and yet tried to further "peaceful co-existence" with the West, who had been brutal enough in his time though he had steadily pushed "de-Stalinization" and who had tightened the screws on the Soviet peasant while at the same time he offered the Soviet consumer visions of "goulash Communism." Overnight Khrushchev disappeared into retirement, and the world gasped in astonishment.

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