Nikita Khrushchev, 1894-1971
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was born at Kalinkova near Kursk. He worked as a shepherd boy and a locksmith and is said to have been illiterate until the age of 25. Joining the Communist Party in 1918, he fought in the Civil War and rose rapidly in the party organization. In 1939, he was made a full member of the Politburo and of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. In WW II, he organized guerilla warfare against the Nazis and took charge of the reconstruction of devastated territory. In 1949, he launched a drastic reorganization of Soviet agriculture. Following the death of Stalin in March 1953, Khrushchev became First Secretary of the All Union Party and, three years later, at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, denounced Stalinism and the "cult of personality." . In 1954, he demoted Molotov, Kaganovich and Malenkov -- all possible rivals. Khrushchev, who did much to enhance the ambitions and status of the Soviet union abroad, was nevertheless deposed in 1964 and forced into retirement. He died in obscurity in 1971. Khrushchev was at his peak the greatest power behind the Iron Curtain, and a decisive voice in world politics and strategy.
What follows is a brief extract from Khrushchev's report to the Party Congress of the Communist Party in 1961. In this report he concentrates on the international competition between communism and capitalism. The extract is followed by a brief list of resources.
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The Soviet motherland has entered the period of full-scale construction of Communism along a wide front of great projects. The economy and culture of the Soviet Union are advancing sharply. The seven-year plan, a plan of mighty development of the productive forces of our motherland, is being successfully fulfilled. The creative forces of the masses of people are pouring forth as from thousands of springs throughout the whole country. The triumphant flights of Soviet men into outer space, the first in human history, are like a crown of splendid victories, a banner of communist construction raised high.
The activity of our party and state has been conducted in a complex international situation. More than once the imperialists have tried to bring the world to the brink of war, to test the strength of the Soviet Union and the courage of its peoples. Many bourgeois politicians have comforted themselves with illusions that our plans would fail and that the socialist camp would disintegrate. They undertook many provocations and acts of subversion against us. The Party, the entire Soviet people, exposed to the intrigues of enemies and emerged with honor from all trials. Today the Soviet Union is stronger and more powerful than ever!
Comrades! The competition of the two world social systems, the socialist and the capitalist, has been the chief content of the period since the 20th Party Congress. It has become dependent, the foundation of world development at the present historical stage. Two lines, two historical trends, have manifested themselves more and more clearly in social development. One is the line of social progress, peace and constructive activity. The other is the line of reaction, oppression and war. . . .
. . . Comrades! When the Party mapped the major measures for expanding our country's economy, bourgeois politicians and economists had quite a good deal to say about how the Communists were sacrificing the peoples vital interests to heavy industry, about how production in the Soviet Union exists only for production's sake. What a vicious libel of socialism! Production not for the sake of production but for the sake of man is the sacred principal governing the activities of the Party and the Soviet state. Now everyone, even the most incorrigible skeptic and doubter, can once more see for himself that our party always honors its pledges to the people.
In the area of domestic policy, our party is setting communists and the Soviet people the following tasks for the next few years:
The entire effort of the people must be directed towards the fulfillment and overfulfillment of the seven-year plan -- an important stage in the creation of the material and technical base for communism. We must continue to raise the level of material production and to keep the country's defenses up to mark. As we seize new heights in the economic development of the Soviet homeland, we should bear in mind that only steady progress will assure us complete superiority and bring closer the day of our victory in the peaceful economic competition with capitalism.
We must strive to accelerate technical progress in all branches of socialist industry without exception. We must move forward particularly in power engineering, chemistry, machine building, metallurgy and the fuel industry. We must specialize enterprises on a broader scale, see to the integrated mechanization and automation of production processes and apply the achievements of modern science and technology and the experience of innovators more rapidly in production. Steady growth of labor productivity and reduction of production costs and improvements in the quality of output must become law for all Soviet enterprises.
We must strive for a level of industrial and agricultural development that will enable us to meet the public's demand for manufactured goods and foodstuffs ever more fully. Funds that accumulate as a result of overfulfillment of industrial output plans should be channeled primarily to agriculture, light industry, the food industry and other consumer goods industries.
We must advance along the entire front of cultural and social development. There must be continuous progress in Soviet science, public education, literature and art. We must raise the working people's living standards, complete the adjustment of wages and planned measures for shortening the working day and week, maintain a rapid pace in housing construction, and improve the pension system, trade, public catering, and medical and everyday services for the working people.
Our country is experiencing a great upsurge of creative effort. Although many nationalities of the Soviet Union look upon the building of communism as a cause near and dear to them and are working hand in hand and making invaluable contributions toward our common victory. Conscious of the grandeur of the tasks we pursue is multiplying the efforts of Soviet people tenfold, causing them to be more exacting of themselves and more intolerance of shortcomings, stagnation and inertia. We must take maximum advantage of the enormous motive forces inherent in the socialist system.
[Source: Mark Kishlansky, ed., Sources of the West: Readings in Western Civilization, 4th ed., vol. 2 (New York: Longman, 2001), pp.309-311.]
Speeches and Addresses
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copyright © 2001 Steven Kreis