KHRUSHCHEV The Man and His Era. By William Taubman. His Early Years.
By William Taubman
Khrushchev uses the Pinya story to show how a small humble, uneducated man can “achieve the stature of the office to which he is elected”. However, some would argue that this comparison shows that “his doubts about himself were more profound than he ever admitted”.
Khrushchev Early YearsHis early childhood was something he does not reminisce about. It was very tough, he was the son of a peasant, describing himself as “the lowest of the low in the village”. Shoes were a luxury that he could ill-affordHis father was ‘weak’ whereas his mother was made of sterner stuff. Although born a peasant, he continuously tried to paint himself as a ‘proletariat’, and not a peasant.
“K’s memoirs are filed with nasty and demeaning descriptions f peasant). His impatience with peasants reflected his Marxist-Leninist creed.
Bolsheviks viewed peasants as dangerous reactionaries, as prisoners of what Marx called “the idiocy of rural life.
“Making it as a Metal Worker: 1908-1917Khrushchev was sent to work at Yuzovka, an industrial town, when he was fourteen.
He stayed there till he was 23, toiling in the rough life.
They enjoyed better wages, good diet and education and were considered a ‘sophisticated working class’ .
It was during his time working in factories that he joined unions and started to be more politically-savvy.
During this period between 1908-1917, he saw the Czar’s abdication, World War 1 and the class struggle between the anarchists and peasants.
He rose through the ranks in the Communist party due “to the very fact that he was unsure of himself, and of his chances to succeed”.
Between 1929 – 1937, Khrushchev’s career rocketed. He was, amongst several others, trying his best to get ‘close’ to Stalin.
He joined in Stalin’s machinery of repression when Stalin began his terrible purge of communists who he suspected to be traitors, whether real or imaginary. Khrushchev betrayed many of his own party loyalists in the process.
He also supported Stalin’s planned economic model, although he could clearly see that it had contributed to the Great Russian Famine of 1932.
Khrushchev was promoted as Moscow’s Party Chief in 1949.
When Stalin died in 1953, Khrushchev toppled the contenders (Beria, Malenkov, Molotov and Voroshilov) to succeed Stalin.
Secret Speech 1956
The Hungarian Revolution
The Berlin Crisis
The American U-2 Spy-plane incident
The Cuban Crisis
a) Stalin’s treatment of Mao – doubts about Mao’s Long March, the Korean War, Mao’s Marxist views.
b) Khrushchev Secret Speech- Mao never forgave Khrushchev for denouncing Stalin. “He is just handing the sword to others, helping the tigers harm us” Mao.
c) Mao felt that Khrushchev lacked the maturity to handle Stalin’s legacy, and would not be able to hold together the Soviet Union. The Polish and Hungarian revolutions of 1956 confirmed Mao’s views.
d) Khrushchev first visit to China 1954 and his generosity which was never reciprocated
e) Mao’s Great Leap Forward – challenged Soviet’s leading role in communism
Khrushchev was like Smarty, the limping man in The Usual Suspects
Responsible for the decline of Soviet foreign relations
Never could shake off his ‘peasant’ image
A tragic figure?