Volume #25 - 514.|
EASTERN EUROPE AND THE SOVIET UNION
FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC POLICY TRENDS
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
July 9th, 1957|
CHANGES IN SOVIET PRAESIDIUM AND COUNCIL OF MINISTERS|
Events Following the Central Committee Meeting, and Personalities Involved
The following have been the changes in the Soviet leadership resulting from the Central Committee meeting of June 22-29:
2. Molotov was the only remaining member of the Praesidium who had worked with Lenin. He has been a member of the Praesidium (formerly Politburo) since 1921, was Chairman of the Council of Peoples Commissars (Council of Ministers) 1930-41, and first deputy chairman thereafter. He was foreign minister 1939-49 and 1953-56, when he was replaced, because of his well-known opposition to Khrushchev's policy of détente and reconciliation with Yugoslavia, by Shepilov. He was appointed Minister of State Control, an essentially administrative supervisory job, in June 1956.
3. Malenkov came into prominence in 1939 as secretary to the Central Committee, became a member of the Council of Ministers in 1944 and of the Praesidium in 1946. He was made Premier (Chairman of the Council of Ministers) when Stalin died, and was replaced in this office by Bulganin early in 1955. He then became Minister of Hydroelectric Stations. As premier he was associated with a policy of increased production of consumer goods, and lost his post because of opposition to this policy by those who favoured heavy industry.
4. Kaganovich, a Jew and a brother-in-law of Stalin, has been a member of the Praesidium since 1930. Since Stalin's death he has stood out as one of the most conservative of the leaders. His whole career has been devoted to the planning and organization of Soviet industry and the economy in general, and he is thought to have been one of the ablest organizers and administrators produced under Stalin's régime. During 1955 and 1956 he was chairman of a committee responsible for labour planning.
5. Shepilov, a member of the Central Committee and editor of Pravda from 1952 to 1956 is known mainly as a propagandist and party theoretician. He replaced Molotov as Foreign Minister in June 1956, and was himself replaced by Gromyko in February 1957, when he became secretary to the Central Committee. His removal from the Foreign Ministry is not thought to have been a demotion or a result of failure of his policies.
6. Saburov was Chairman of Gosplan (the State Economic Planning Commission) from 1949 until December 1956. During that time he was responsible for the general methodology of Soviet economic planning. He and Pervukhin became members of the Praesidium in 1952, and were the only two newcomers to retain their places after Stalin's death.
7. Pervukhin has been a member of the Council of Ministers since 1939, and of the Praesidium since 1952. He is thought to have been closely associated throughout his career with Kaganovich. In December 1956 he replaced Saburov as Chairman of Gosplan, but in March last was removed from this position when the Khrushchev industrial decentralization plan was announced.
8. In general terms, Molotov, Kaganovich and Malenkov (and by implication Shepilov, Pervukhin and Saburov as well) are charged with obstructing the fulfillment of the decisions of the 20th Party Congress. According to the Kremlin communiqué of July 5 announcing the dismissal of the group, they are guilty of obstructing the development of peaceful co-existence, opposing decentralization of Soviet industry, opposing the granting of material incentives in agriculture, and opposing the abolition of all manifestations of the cult of personality. The main burden of accusation fell on Molotov, who, according to the communiqué, had rejected the idea that there may be different paths to socialism in different countries, opposed the reduction of tension in international affairs by personal contacts between Soviet and Western leaders, opposed Soviet reconciliation with Yugoslavia, opposed the conclusion of a state treaty with Austria and of a peace treaty with Japan. Kaganovich, Malenkov, and on some occasions Shepilov, were said by the communiqué to have joined Molotov in his intransigence on many of these points. The four are otherwise not individually accused of specific shortcomings, except Malenkov, who on July 6 was accused by Khrushchev of having been implicated in the 1948-49 Leningrad plot. In addition, all four of the dismissed leaders are said to have opposed the economic and cultural development of the union republics of the Soviet Union (and it is interesting in this connection to see that in the new Praesidium, there is increased representation from the non-Russian Soviet nationalities). Finally, the four are said to have resisted measures taken by the government to combat bureaucracy and to reduce the inflated state apparatus, and they are said to have been opposed to the establishment of "socialist legality," the term which has been used since the 20th Party Congress to mean the reduction of the arbitrary methods used by the police and the courts under Stalin. When they found that they were unable to prevail in any of their reactionary ideas, the four are said to have resorted to "collusion and intrigue" to "change the composition of the Party's leading bodies," that is, to overthrow Khrushchev in the Praesidium. Thus, concludes the communiqué, these four were dismissed by the Central Committee from their position of trust in the Party and Government. Nothing is said about Saburov and Pervukhin, who were presumably less active and less dangerous in the anti-Khrushchev group.
9. The drastic nature of the industrial reorganization and decentralization is probably the main cause of this upheaval in the Praesidium. We know from the report of a Polish defector that at the Central Committee plenum of July 1955, Molotov stood alone in opposing, as he had since 1948, a policy of reconciliation with Yugoslavia and détente in relations with the West. It is not very likely that then or now any of the other demoted leaders were prepared, on foreign policy grounds alone, to support him against Khrushchev. It is much more likely that Kaganovich, Malenkov and Saburov, worried by Khrushchev's new agricultural policy (including the new lands venture) and thoroughly alarmed by the plans for decentralization, found in Molotov an additional voice for their anti-Khrushchev group, even though Molotov's differences with Khrushchev were mainly on foreign rather than domestic issues. Of course, as Minister of State Control, and as one of the most Stalinist of the Soviet leaders, Molotov would be well aware of the dangers of industrial decentralization.
10. The policy towards the Satellites may also have provided a rallying point for Khrushchev's conservative opposition in the Praesidium. The decision to crush the Hungarian revolt was one in which Khrushchev doubtless concurred, but his concurrence should be viewed rather as a temporary aberration from the policy which he espoused than as a change of heart in favour of Stalinist rigidity. That the loss of Hungary (with no compensating loss to the West) was intolerable for the Soviet Union is obvious. But there must have been in the Praesidium grave misgivings about the policies which had made possible the Hungarian and Polish developments of last autumn, especially the policy of reconciliation with Yugoslavia. However, it is not likely that there would have been downright defiance of Khrushchev on these grounds alone, since only Molotov felt the policy to be totally wrong. Only the new law of industrial decentralization could have brought into the open the hostility of so large a group in the Praesidium.
11. One can see in the provisions of the law concerning decentralization the concern which its framers felt for the maintenance of overall control at the centre, even though decisions about the actual operation of the country's economy were henceforth to be taken regionally. Khrushchev, in his defence of the "theses" at the recent meeting of the Supreme Soviet, insisted that in no sense would the reorganization cause any loss of real power at the centre, that the theses were entirely compatible with the "democratic centralism" of Lenin. Nevertheless, to a man like Kaganovich, with long practical experience in the management of Soviet industry, there must be terrors in the prospect of a hundred or so almost autonomous economic regions across the country, however more efficient they may be than the abolished central ministries. Even though the boundaries of the Union Republics do not necessarily coincide with those of the new economic regions, there is little doubt that the existence of the economic regions will place more power in the hands of the republican governments.
12. It would obviously be a mistake of oversimplification to say that these changes are a simple purging of Stalinists from the leadership, if by Stalinist is meant one who would favour a return to the Soviet Union of 1952. Most probably not even the most reactionary of the guilty six would wish for that, realizing that the methods of Stalin had brought the Soviet Union to an impasse both at home and abroad. The word Stalinist, applied to these six, can mean little more than the conservatism of men who have been shocked by the magnitude and recklessness of Khrushchev's recent changes in domestic and foreign policy. At home the virgin lands gamble (still far from assured of success), industrial decentralization, and a degree of intellectual freedom; abroad, reconciliation with Yugoslavia, toleration of Gomulka, and perhaps willingness to negotiate seriously on issues of disarmament and European settlement — these are the works of a leader with unbounded optimism for the future, and small regard for the past. A member of the Praesidium need be no Stalinist, in any strict sense, to deplore what must seem to him irresponsible gambling with the gains of the past twelve years.
13. In spite of the rash of speculation in the press about a probable connection between the Praesidium purges and the recent pronouncements of Mao Tse-tung,40 it seems unlikely that these two had anything to do with one another. It is now, of course, easy to see why Khrushchev suppressed, in the version published in the U.S.S.R. of his American TV interview,41 his denial of the existence in his country of "contradictions" between the leaders and the people, but it would be fanciful to suppose that the purge resulted from a wish of Khrushchev's to let "a hundred flowers" bloom in the Soviet Union. However, there is no doubt that the Chinese leadership is gratified by the purge, which will make it easier to bridge the growing ideological gulf between the two countries.
14. Any attempt to make a chronology of the events, within the Central Committee and the Praesidium, which led up to last week's dismissals, would be purely guessing. There has, however, been evidence of seriously divided opinion, and signs that at one stage, probably during the Central Committee meeting of last December, Khrushchev's faction found itself in a minority. There took place as a result of that meeting a series of changes in the Soviet economic administration, resulting in the temporary ascendancy of Pervukhin (one of those dismissed from the Praesidium) in Soviet economic affairs. But within three months Khrushchev had laid before the Supreme Soviet his plans for industrial decentralization, Pervukhin had been relegated to the background, and the top economic job (director of Gosplan) had gone to a less well known man, Kuzmin. Very probably this, together with other objectionable Khrushchev policies and a good deal of ambition and opportunism, forced matters to a head at the meeting of the Central Committee which took place on June 22. The decision to purge the guilty six came (according to Khrushchev by vote) on June 29, and the Soviet people were informed of it in Pravda on July 4. The support of the army (evidenced by Zhukov's elevation to voting membership in the Praesidium and the violence of the denunciation of the "conspirators" in the Soviet military newspapers) doubtless contributed in large measure to Khrushchev's success in overthrowing those who opposed him, and to the confidence manifest in his paying, with Bulganin, a visit to Czechoslovakia so soon after the shake-up.
15. Until July 6, most people in the West, and probably in the Soviet Union too, wondered what fate would be reserved for the deposed leaders. It seemed possible that Molotov and Kaganovich, being older men and presumably not popular in the U.S.S.R., might be induced to retire decently into the shadow. Malenkov, a young man whose name in the Soviet Union is associated with more consumer goods and a better material life for all, and who is known in the West as the most subtle and personable of the former leadership, poses a harder problem. The answer to this problem was produced on July 6 by Khrushchev, when he accused Malenkov of being associated in guilt with Beria and Abukumov in the Leningrad plot of 1948-49. Whatever truth there is in the charge (and there is probably a good deal) there is obvious danger in it for Malenkov, and it seems certain that he will be silenced by Beria's fate, or by the threat of it.
16. One result of the dismissals is certainly a more powerful Khrushchev than ever before. The new Praesidium, increased from 11 to 15 members, now contains none of the old powerful figures save Mikoyan, who has been associated with the more liberal policies of Khrushchev. Its new members are of Khrushchev's picking, several of them apparently chosen because they were of non-Russian nationality. (The three offenders are accused of resisting "the Party's firm course toward the more rapid development of economy and culture in the national republics"). Marshal Zhukov is, of course, the outstanding exception. It seems likely that Khrushchev will attempt to preserve at least the appearance of collective leadership, and that he will be unable to launch important new policies without the consent of at least Marshal Zhukov. Furthermore, as long as the deposed leaders are alive, they will constitute a force and represent a body of opinion which Khrushchev will doubtless have to take into account when he is forming policies. One might say, therefore, that although the Soviet Union is more completely under the control of one man than at any time since the death of Stalin, Khrushchev will nevertheless have to compromise with the opinions of others in a way that Stalin did not. It is unlikely that Marshal Zhukov aspires himself to lead the country. So long as the interests of the army are considered when decisions are taken, and the traditional conservatism of the army is not outraged by extreme policies of Khrushchev's devising, one can imagine that Marshal Zhukov will be content with the large measure of power and influence which have come to him as a result of these changes.
17. It is reasonable to expect that, if Khrushchev is able to maintain his new pre-eminence, we can look for increased Soviet vigour in pursuit of the policies which are associated with him. We can expect an unrestrained effort to accomplish the economic ends which Khrushchev has made clear are close to his heart — at home, equality with the United States in per capita production, especially of agricultural products; abroad, competitive coexistence until world socialism is achieved. The liberalization of domestic and foreign policy which both these objectives demand, and the dangers for Communism and the Soviet empire inherent in that liberalization, are the price which the Soviet Union must pay in the coming years for the pursuit of power in the world. The foreign policy which we have come to associate with Khrushchev during the past three years, and which was interrupted by Hungary, will probably continue. However, Khrushchev has warned that the West need not expect the Moscow changes to bring about concessions from the Soviet Union. Zorin's objection today in the Disarmament Sub-Committee to the Western proposal for a ten-month moratorium on atomic weapons testing may be designed to emphasize Khrushchev's remarks. The dissolution of NATO and the withdrawal of United States forces from Europe, the economic and political penetration of the under-developed countries of Asia and Africa, and attempts to overcome the set-back of Hungary by persuading Western peoples of the peaceful intentions of the Soviet Union — these are the bases of the foreign policy which Khrushchev has pursued in the past and which we can reasonably expect him to pursue with even more ardour now that he is disembarrassed of his most serious opposition in the ruling bodies of party and government.42
40.Voir/See The New York Times, June 19, 1957, pp. 13-15.
41Voir/See The New York Times, June 3, 1957, p. 6.
42Note marginale:/Marginal note: