Shhhh…It’s a Secret Speech

Khrushchev’s secret speech, given to party officials but not published for the general public, showed his desire for de-Stalinization.  Basically, Khrushchev has the same criticisms about Stalin that the rest of the world had: he was paranoid, rude, and killed too many people. Khrushchev believed that Stalin had given the world a bad example of socialism.  He also stated that many innocent lives had been lost.

When Khrushchev is speaking, he is careful to maintain the language of the party.  He emphasizes the point that Lenin didn’t like Stalin.  If Lenin, who cannot be wrong, disliked Stalin, than logically this must mean that Stalin was a bad person. Since Lenin expressly stated he did not want Stalin to be the next leader of the USSR, then Stalin’s reign could be viewed as a mistake and a break away from communism.  Khrushchev makes it seem as though a communist must choose between Lenin and Stalin.  And a good communist will always choose Lenin.

My questions after reading the speech were these: Did Khrushchev dislike Stalin because Lenin disliked him? Or was this speech, as I suspect, a cleverly designed mask for deeper feelings? Did Khrushchev dislike Stalin for the obvious, ethical reasons? Or personal reasons? Whatever the reason, conditions in the Soviet Union began to improve under de-Stalinization.

Secret Speech

We’ve talked about Khrushchev’s contradicting opinions of Stalin while he was the Party First Secretary and later Chairmen of the USSR, but his “Secret Speech” seems to finally put to rest his true opinion on Stalin’s dictatorship. The speech was known as such because it was read in a session without discussion and was not reported in the Soviet press. However, the Communist world knew of its existence and the claims within- that Stalin’s “Cult of Personality” was responsible of crimes such as the Terror of the later 1930s to the deportation of nationalities in the early 1940s- shocked and led many Western Communists to abandon Communism altogether. Not only did this speech reveal how Khrushchev truly felt about Stalin’s dictatorship and his desire to create a more Leninist society but also consolidated his authority over other Stalinist Party members.

Khrushchev’s speech argued that Stalin’s role in the Party was completely the opposite of the spirit of Marxism-Leninism, thus blaming for the various crimes in the past three decades. He also claimed Lenin recognized Stalin’s negative qualities which made him a poor leader as early as 1922. He spoke of Stalin’s continuous violence and suspicious nature as leading reasons why the Soviet Union suffered such great losses during the war without necessary preparation. His final message is of the abolishment of the “cult of the individual” in favor of the unity of the Party. Ultimately, he is condemning the small role Leninism has played within the government and the atrocities committed under the name of Marxism-Leninism and Stalin.