Khrushchev’s not-so-secret Secret Speech
When the 20th Party Congress convened in February of 1956, the future of Stalin’s legacy remained unclear. His successor, Khrushchev ended any doubt of how he viewed Stalin’s image when he unleashed a verbal attack upon the former leader during a secret gathering of the delegates.
Among Khrushchev’s most ominous critiques of Stalin was his utter brutality and disregard for Justice. Specifically, blame for the infamous Kirov affair, years earlier, was placed squarely upon Stalin’s shoulders. Such intolerance was unacceptable to Khrushchev and he pledged to move the party in a new direction, with more involvement from more members.
A new era of de-Stalinization, spelled out by some 26,000 words in Khrushchev’s speech, urged for a retreat from the cult that had developed around the former leader (Freeze, 418). Although Stalin had defeated the fascists and won the Great Patriotic War, he had killed and subjected many of his people to harsh imprisonment. These tragedies were bound to catch up with Stalin sooner or later; Khrushchev merely hastened the process by denouncing Stalin so openly by Soviet standards.
The really ironic aspect of Khrushchev’s speech is that although it was meant to be reflective of common sentiments, the speech was not intended for public ears. The masses needed to be confident in the integrity of the communist party itself and any attack on Stalin that went too far may raise questions about the party as a whole. Khrushchev knew this; thus, he took precautions to summon the congressional delegates at night and without attracting media attention.
Unfortunately, the entire text of the speech quickly traveled from behind closed doors and into the hands of Israeli and US intelligence agencies. According to this US govt. source, President Eisenhower authorized the New York Times to run a story on the secret speech based off leaked information from the CIA. CIA involvement during the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950’s should come as no surprise. This speech probably seemed like a gold mine to social and cultural intelligence analysts searching for evidence of Soviet weakness.