Khrushchev's Secret Speech Again

Apsken at Apsken at
Tue Aug 10 20:52:02 MDT 1999

    I think no one directly answered the question about whether and to what
extent the CIA may have manipulated the published text of Nikita Khrushchev's
secret speech. I cannot say for certain, but I think I can provide some
useful insights.
    But first, a couple of Khrushchev stories. When NK made his famous tour
of the United States, some aspects of U.S. society astonished him, yet he
always got the best of his State Department escorts in ripostes. Asked why he
seemed to puzzled as he watched traffic crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, he
replied, "Do you realize there's just one person in each of those cars?"
Asked why he seemed surprised by the high yields of Iowa's corn farms, his
eyes twinkled and he grinned, "I guess you didn't try to keep them secret."
    Recall also that this is the same man who in his retirement presented the
CIA his taped memoir for publication as Khrushchev Remembers.
    The wily fellow who ruthlessly and effectively crushed the
counterrevolution in Western Ukraine, and supervised the political defense of
Stalingrad during the Nazi siege, was not a man who made disclosures to the
world's Communist leaders in the expectation that they would be kept secret.
    On the other hand, most of the leaked accounts of how Khrushchev's text
became public had fairly transparent political purposes. One was that the CIA
had purchased it from Palmiro Togliatti; another was that an unnamed senior
Yugoslavian Communist leader had passed it to the Israeli secret service,
which had passed it to the CIA for publication in the New York Times and the
New Leader. No doubt there were other stories of its origin that I missed,
and it is equally probable that any of these tales are true, or that they are
    However, I think no one yet has published the fact that the first U.S.
recipient was the FBI, let alone has anyone drawn useful lessons from that
    About 20 years ago, shortly after the initial disclosure that Morris and
Jack Childs, code-named SOLO, had been the FBI's chief top-level spies within
the CPUSA leadership, I began an investigation of the extent of damage they
may have caused to the U.S. left.
    Comrades often have failed to grasp the sophistication of the FBI's
ideological operations, even while otherwise being pretty well informed about
the methods employed by provocateurs, the tactics of COINTELPRO, and so forth.
    For example, the FBI had created a network of communist collectives
throughout the U.S. and Canada under its control during the 1960s and 1970s.
The chief operatives of those were Joseph Burton of the Red Star Cadre in
Tampa, and Gil and Gi Schafer of the Red Collective in New Orleans. Burton
confessed his activities to the New York Times when he tired of being
publicly known as a fringe extremist. He blew the Schafers' cover.
    When I interviewed Burton, one of whose provocations had been directed
against me, he described how in planning his operations, the FBI dispatched a
high-level CP functionary from Chicago (Morris Childs fit that description,
though Burton did not know the agent's name) to write his propaganda. For one
operation, disrupting the unification meeting of the October League and the
Revolutionary Union, Red Star Cadre was Maoist. For another, disrupting UE's
organizing drive at Westinghouse, his literature and speeches were pitched as
Fidelist. Burton himself was incapable of adopting these poses without heavy
coaching. Assuming similar direction was provided to the Schafers, the Red
Collective was inclined toward militarism, and Gi Schafer (who is a licensed
pilot) flew guns to the American Indian Movement during the occupation of
Wounded Knee.
    But Morris Childs was responsible for some of the most devastating
attacks on the CP. The best known "snitch jacket" operation was the FBI's
success in branding a dedicated CP organizer, William Albertson, as an
undercover agent. Though Albertson professed innocence for the rest of his
life, the CP expelled and reviled him. The "evidence" against Albertson was a
report to the FBI in his own handwriting, which had been authenticated by
handwriting experts in Moscow.
    But Morris Childs was the CP National Committee member who carried the
documents to Moscow, and Moscow's evaluation back to the CP. Frank Donner
exposed the FBI's terrible success against Albertson in his article, "Let Him
Wear a Wolf's Head," but I don't think he ever learned of Childs's role. He
tended to treat the CP's leaders as gullible dupes of the FBI.
    Dorothy Healey told me the story of Childs's mission, and of her personal
conviction, based on his report, that Albertson was guilty of spying. But her
most dramatic recollection in response to my questions was of the meeting
following the Party Congress, when Morris Childs, upon his return from
Moscow, read aloud to the CPUSA leaders the text of Khrushchev's speech,
forbidding them even to take notes on it.
    Though not the only factor, that event was a major cause of the
disintegration of the CP shortly afterward. Without it, the CP might have
held firm after the Hungarian revolt, as it had after the Berlin revolt three
years earlier, and the turbulence in Poland. But the effect of Khrushchev's
secret speech,orchestrated by and filtered through the FBI's most effective
agent, sapped morale at the leadership level as never before or since.

Ken Lawrence

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