Let me tell you something about Mao Zedong. We were best friends in the Comintern. I know, right? It’s so embarrassing. I don’t even… Whatever. So then in 1959, I started hanging out with American presidents, who were totally gorgeous except when they refused to leave West Berlin, and Mao was like, weirdly jealous of them. Like, if I would blow him off to hang out with Ike, he’d be like, “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to Washington?” And I’d be like, “Why are you so obsessed with me? Also Ike wants to know if you’ll free those prisoners now.” So then, for my birthday party, which was an all-Party member corn festival, I was like, “Comrade, I can’t invite you, because I think you’re a Stalinist.” I mean I couldn’t have a Stalinist at my corn festival. There were gonna be peasants there uncollectivized. I mean, right? He was a Stalinist! So then his ambassador called my ambassador and started yelling about Marxist revisionism, it was so retarded. And then he dropped out of the alliance because no one except Enver Hoxha would talk to him, and then when he came back in the fall for the 22nd Party Congress, all of his hair was cut off and he was totally weird.
On this day in 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made his famous speech 'On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences’. Also known as 'The Secret Speech’, it was delivered to a closed session of the twentieth congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was held in the Kremlin, Moscow. It was the first such congress since the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in March 1953 and the accession to power of party First Secretary Khrushchev. In the powerful oration, Khrushchev fiercely critiqued the Stalin regime in a way unimaginable during his repressive rule. The new leader blasted Stalin’s oppressive purges of opponents and failures in his leadership during the Second World War. However Khrushchev reserved his harshest indictment for Stalin’s 'cult of personality’, which was the image - promoted by the Soviet press - of Stalin as an all-powerful, almost god-like figure. On the day, the reception to Khrushchev’s speech was one of shocked silence, as many of the revered Stalin’s crimes had never previously been revealed. However in the aftermath, some came to see the speech as a brave move by the new leader, while others considered it an attempt to deflect blame for all of the USSR’s problems away from Khrushchev and onto Stalin and his supporters. Either way, the speech marked the beginning in earnest of a programme of de-Stalinisation, which saw the dismantling of Stalin’s cult and systems of repression. Tributes to Stalin were also targeted, with his body being removed from its place of honor beside Lenin’s in the Red Square mausoleum, and Stalingrad being renamed Volgograd. The speech additionally ushered in a period of liberalisation known as 'Khrushchev’s Thaw’, which greatly curtailed repression and censorship in the Soviet Union.
“Comrades, the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person”
‘Without getting into the ally business,’ I said, 'I’d like to ask one question about the new communes [in China].’
Khrushchev’s response was possibly the most interesting part of the whole interview. He said, 'They are old-fashioned, they are reactionary. We tried it right after the Revolution. It just doesn’t work. That system is not nearly so good as the state farms and the collective farms. You know, Senator, what those communes are based on? They are based on that principle 'From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’ You know that won’t work. You can’t get production without incentive.’
I could hardly believe that the leader of world communism was rejecting the core of Marxist theory. I said simply, 'That is rather capitalistic.’ Khrushchev replied, 'Call it what you will. It works.’
Hubert Humphrey on his December 1958 meeting with Khrushchev; Humphrey, Hubert H. The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1991. pp. 146-147.
March 27th 1958: Khrushchev becomes Soviet Premier
On this day in 1958, Nikita Khrushchev became head of the government of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev served as Premier of the world’s first
Communist state from 1958 to 1964. He, along with Lenin and Stalin, are
the only Premiers to also have been party leader simultaneously. Under
Khrushchev, Russia was partially de-Stalinised, which was a core policy of the Premier who vociferously denounced his predecessor’s dangerous ‘cult of personality’. However, the accession of Khrushchev did not ease the tensions of the Cold War, and during his tenure Russia escalated its space program to compete with the United States in the ‘Space Race’. Russia had successfully launched the first satellite - Sputnik 1 - in 1957, but now sought to put a man in space, which they did in 1961. It was also under Khrushchev that the Cold War came the closest to breaking out into fully fledged war, with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963. Khrushchev was
deposed by party colleagues in 1964 and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev as
First Secretary of the Communist Party and by Alexei Kosygin as Premier.
But just now I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked “Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?” I do not know.
Just listen to what reason I was told: “We,” which means the American authorities, “cannot guarantee your security if you go there.”
What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken over the place that can destroy me? Then what must I do? Commit suicide? … For me, this situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people.
Nikita Khrushchev, September 19, 1959, on being told he could not visit Disneyland during a visit to California.