Reassessing Nikita Khrushchev

Henry C.K. Liu hliu at
Tue May 8 13:59:14 MDT 2001

There is a world of difference between Khrushchev and Deng/Jiang.

Deng/Jiang policies were reactive to a world of little real options while
Khrushchev open the gate voluntarily.  K was poisoning a health organism,
while Deng/Jiang were trying to keep a dying patient alive with certain
compromises.  Without Deng/Jiang policies, China would have gone the way of
Russia in 1989.

If K had not introduced revisionism, the US would not have been able to
split the Socialist block with geopolitics.

Henry C.K. Liu

Barry Stoller wrote:

> 'When it is a question of fighting against imperialism, we can state
> with conviction that we are all Stalinists. We can take pride that we
> have taken part in the fight for the advance of our great cause against
> our enemies. From that point of view, I am proud that we are
> Stalinists.' —Khrushchev, December 1956.
> In my debates with [various 'Marxist-Leninists'] on the topic of Stalin,
> Khrushchev's name appears peripherally, always drawing from them a great
> deal of ire. My debates on the topic of Stalin originated with a
> question to one of them---namely, if you support China as a socialist
> nation (something I would hesitate to do), thus pay some form of respect
> to Deng and Jiang, why such animosity towards Khrushchev who is
> unfailingly portrayed by 'Marxist-Leninists' as a dupe of the
> bourgeoisie? Unlike Deng and Jiang, Khrushchev certainly never
> instituted a stock market.
> Let me outline some of the outstanding criticisms of Khrushchev.
> 1. According to Molotov, Khrushchev deserves scorn for implementing
> 'material incentives' (i.e. higher pay for certain individuals and
> sectors), saying that doing so proves that Khrushchev 'th[ought] in a
> bourgeois way' (Chuev, Molotov Remembers, Ivan R. Dee 1993, p. 371).
> This charge is also adopted by the Trotskyists. Yet it was Stalin who
> raised the wage gap from double in Lenin's time to quadruple in
> Stalin's. As Deutscher noted: 'At the 17th Congress, in 1934, [Stalin]
> decried the equalization of wages and salaries as a "reactionary,
> petty-bourgeois absurdity worthy of a primitive sect of ascetics but not
> of a socialist society organized on Marxian lines"' (Stalin: A Political
> Biography, Oxford 1967, p. 338). Furthermore, it was Stalin who codified
> the abandonment of the Marxist (and Leninist) goal of job rotation, the
> most logical basis for wage and salary equalization.* All Khrushchev did
> was follow a precedent already in place.
> * Stalin: 'Everyone is familiar with the gulf which under capitalism
> divided the physical workers of enterprises from the managerial
> personnel. We know that this gulf gave rise to a hostile attitude on the
> part of the workers towards managers, foremen, engineers and other
> members of the technical staff, whom the workers regarded as their
> enemies. Naturally, with the abolition of capitalism and the exploiting
> system, the antagonism of interests between physical and mental labor
> was also bound to disappear. And it really has disappeared in our
> present socialist system. Today, the physical workers and the managerial
> personnel are not enemies, but comrades and friends, members of a single
> collective body of producers who are vitally interested in the progress
> and improvement of production... But some distinction, if unessential,
> will remain, if only because the conditions of labor of the managerial
> staffs and those of the workers are not identical' (Economic Problems of
> Socialism in the U.S.S.R., International 1952, pp. 24-25).
> 2. Another criticism, also aired by Molotov, is that Khrushchev was too
> willing to concede U.S. military hegemony ('peaceful co-existence').
> Indeed, Molotov castigated Khrushchev for backing down during the
> Caribbean Crisis. Again,a charge adopted by the Trotskyists. Yet, how
> tough was Stalin? Many would say the infamous Molotov-Ribbontrop pact
> was a sure sign of Stalin's weakness. Molotov himself defended not
> fortifying the border against the Germans because, according to him, to
> do so, would have provoked the Germans. Then, there's Korea; Volkogonov
> asserts that '[f]rom indirect sources, I have been able to establish
> that Stalin took an extremely cautious view of events in Korea and from
> the outset made every attempt to avoid direct confrontation between the
> U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A.' (Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy, Grove Weidenfeld
> 1988, p. 540).
> 3. Then, there's the exclusively Trotskyist criticism of Khrushchev,
> whom Trotskyists call a 'Stalinist' because he failed to instigate the
> worker's democracy (liberalization) promised by Trotsky (and the Left
> Opposition of 1927). In other words: Khrushchev was more of the
> same---dictatorship; bureaucratic degeneration; socialism from above;
> etc. This criticism is leveled from a nihilist position, of course,
> since Trotsky cannot be judged in the role of supreme Soviet. What we
> know from Trotsky's days leading the Red Army, not to mention his
> opinions of the trade unions, we may wonder just how much 'workers
> democracy' he would have provided (i.e. been capable of providing),
> however. There is also reason to believe that intraparty purges would
> have occurred under Trotsky as well.* The 'Marxist-Leninists' often make
> the same accusation---that is, they assert Khrushchev concentrated too
> much power in his hands. While it true that Khrushchev grew to abuse his
> authority in his final years in power (his son has confirmed this openly
> in memoirs), one of the primary reasons for his dismissal from
> authority, it it ludicrous to compare Khrushchev's abuse of authority
> with Stalin's. After all, Khrushchev nurtured a system in which the
> supreme leader could be removed (peacefully). One might even agree with
> Khrushchev that that was his greatest accomplishment.
> * Trotsky in 1927, addressing the Central Committee: 'We [The Left
> Opposition], in addition, will shoot this band of contemptible
> bureaucrats [Stalin, Bukharin, etc.] who have betrayed the revolution.
> Yes, we'll do it. You, too, you'd like to shoot us, but you dare not. We
> dare to do it because it will be an absolutely indispensable condition
> for winning' (quoted in Bazhanov, Bazhanov and the Damnation of Stalin,
> Ohio University Press 1990, p. 115).
> 4. 'The party of the whole people.' The harshest criticism of
> Khrushchev, of course, is, in 1961, he pronounced the class struggle
> over in the U.S.S.R. As the story goes, 'the  proletarian party was
> turned into a "party of the whole people", i.e., into a bourgeois party
> by the Khrushchevites. In order to accomplish this, the system of
> Stalinist party cadre was liquidated and in their place arose bourgeois
> cadre: Trotskyites, Bukharinites and similar enemies of the Soviet
> people' (Organizing Committee for International Council of Friendship
> and Solidarity with Soviet People, Northstar Compass, June/July, 1998,
> Vol. 6, No. 11-12,
> <>). Yet: 'In his
> speech on November 25, 1936, on the draft of the Constitution of the
> USSR, comrade Stalin said: "Our Soviet society has already, in the main,
> succeeded in achieving socialism; it has created a socialist system,
> i.e., it has brought about what Marxists in other words call the first,
> or lower, phase of communism. Hence, in the main, we have already
> achieved the first phase of communism, socialism"' (ibid.) If that's so,
> then where did all those Khrushchevite Trotskyites, Bukharinites 'and
> similar enemies of the Soviet people' come from? Did Stalin really miss
> anyone after the 22 million people executed or exiled in the purges? Or
> is the criticism that Khrushchev, believing, erroneously as it turned
> out, that SINCE socialism had succeeded in the U.S.S.R., the time had
> come to stop terrorizing the entire population and let them participate
> in running the state that claimed to represent them?*
> * 'Public involvement was fostered by a campaign to elect more workers
> and peasants to bureaus of primary party organizations... [T]here began
> in 1957 a vast and sudden expansion in the size of the party, in the
> size of party and nonparty aktivs [activists], and in the role of social
> organizations in the discussion and implementation of policy...
> Simultaneous with all these efforts was the initiation of a movement for
> the transfer of some administrative functions of the state to public
> corporations or mass organizations that would have independent
> jurisdiction over the performance of these functions... Elected
> production committees were set up in the factories as a means of
> broadening worker participation in decision-making... In the same
> spirit, rule changes made it easier for the party masses to reject
> nominees for the position of secretary of the primary party
> organization' (Breslauer, Khrushchev and Brezhnev as Leaders: Building
> Authority in Soviet Politics, Allen & Unwin 1984, pp. 127, 129, 130 &
> 131).
> Why might it be worthwhile to reassess Khrushchev? Why might
> 'Marxist-Leninists' stop, if only momentarily, the practice of
> demonizing him as if he was the antithesis of the great man of history
> (Stalin)? Why might Trotskyists desist, if only for an instant, in their
> practice of labeling Khrushchev a 'Stalinist'?
> Several reasons.
> The most important, however, is that he symbolizes gradual
> liberalization within the dictatorship of the proletariat. While
> Khrushchev certainly ruled with strength (Hungary) on primary issues of
> necessity, he also loosened press restrictions, travel restrictions and,
> above all, ended the violence within the party. He also made tentative
> steps towards bringing the party closer to the rank and file (see
> Breslauer quote above) and, in some instances, making the party more
> responsive to the people.*
> * 'Khrushchev emerged as a champion of local leaders against the mighty
> Moscow ministries... He emphasize[d] regional planning, the devolution
> of economic authority and the role of local and republican party organs
> in the guidance of enterprises. A series of decrees issued in 1955
> expanded the rights of the U.S.S.R.'s constituent republics over
> economic planning and budgetary policy... He constantly urged local
> party officials to visit farms, to master the technical aspects of
> agricultural issues and to become involved in the resolution of specific
> problems' (Tompson, Khrushchev: A Political Life, St. Martin's Griffin
> 1997, pp. 137, 150 &152).
> As I see it, these are important considerations in our propaganda
> efforts amongst a skeptical working class. If we take Stalin's
> intensification of the class struggle thesis and eternalize it, as
> certain parties do (M.I.M. comes to mind), then all communists who take
> that position can offer the working class is an eternal 1937. That,
> suffice to say, is not the route to winning the hearts and trust of the
> working class!
> On the other hand, if communists point to Khrushchev and his era, and
> say: society liberalizes as productivity increases---then we might have
> a historical precedent, grounded firmly in historical materialism, to
> use as a positive, popular example in our agitation for a renewed
> revolution and a renewed dictatorship of the proletariat.
> ...........................
> Barry Stoller
> Proletarian news & Leninist debate

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