Modern History Sourcebook:
Secret Speech, 1956
Secret Speech to the Closed Session of
the Twentieth Party Congress, February 25, 1956
We have to consider seriously and analyze correctly [the crimes
of the Stalin era] in order that we may preclude any possibility of a repetition
in any form whatever of what took place during the life of Stalin,
who absolutely did not tolerate collegiality in leadership and
in work, and who practiced brutal violence, not only toward everything
which opposed him, but also toward that which seemed to his capricious
and despotic character, contrary to his concepts.
Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation, and patient
cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding
absolute submission to his opinion. Whoever opposed this concept
or tried to prove hi viewpoint, and the correctness of his position,
was doomed to removal from the leading collective and to subsequent
moral and physical annihilation. This was especially true during
the period following the XVIIth Party Congress (1934)....
Stalin originated the concept enemy of the people. This term automatically
rendered it unnecessary that the ideological errors of a man or
men engaged in a controversy be proven; this term made possible
the usage of the most cruel repression, violating all norms of
revolutionary legality, against anyone who in any way disagreed
with Stalin, against those who were only suspected of hostile
intent, against those who had bad reputations. This concept, enemy
of the people, actually eliminated the possibility of any kind
of ideological fight or the making of one's views known on this
or that issue, even those of a practical character.... The only
proof of guilt used, against all norms of current legal science,
was the confession of the accused himself; and, as subsequent
probing proved, confessions were acquired through physical pressures
against the accused.
This led to the glaring violations of revolutionary legality,
and to the fact that many entirely innocent persons, who in the
past had defended the Party line, became victims....
The Commission [of Inquiry] has become acquainted with a large
quantity of materials in the NKVD archives
. It became apparent
that many Party, Soviet and economic activists who were branded
in 1937-1938 as enemies were actually never enemies, spies, wreckers,
etc., but were always honest Communists; they were only so stigmatized,
and often, no longer able to bear barbaric tortures, they charged
themselves with all kinds of grave and unlikely crimes....
Lenin used severe methods only in the most necessary cases, when
the exploiting classes were still in existence and were vigorously
opposing the revolution, when the struggle for survival was decidedly
assuming the sharpest forms, even including a civil war.
Stalin, on the other hand, used extreme methods and mass repression
at a time when the revolution was already victorious, when the
Soviet state was strengthened, when the exploiting classes were
already liquidated and Socialist relations were rooted solidly
in all phases of national economy, when our Party was politically
consolidated and had strengthened itself both numerically and
ideologically. It is clear that here Stalin showed in a whole
series of cases his intolerance, his brutality and his abuse of
power. Instead of proving his political correctness and mobilizing
the masses, he often chose the path of repression and physical
annihilation, not only against actual enemies, but also against
individuals who had not committed any crimes against the Party
and the Soviet government....
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997