How Khrushchev and Gorbachev Ended the Cold War
and other tales from lake wobegon
By streiff Posted in Liberals — Comments (7) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
I have never ceased to be amazed at the left’s romance with totalitarianism so long as it is cloaked in a pretense of socialism. Slaughters, whether in Nicaragua, Cambodia, Vietnam, sub-Saharan Africa, or in Soviet Gulags, went unremarked while emerging democracies and, of course, the United States were held up to scorn. When Amnesty International was formed in 1961 it established a policy of naming equal numbers of cases from the West and from behind the Iron Curtain.
When the Soviet Union went belly-up, much of the left went into mourning.
Sometimes, though, things are said that simply beggar the imagination. This morning Garrison Keillor gave a monologue and opened a window into the soul of an aging lefty.
I have to confess to being a fairly regular listener to National Public Radio. I stopped contributing to it some years ago. Just as William F. Buckley once explained his love for Cuban cigars as not being a violation of a boycott but rather putting the torch to Castro’s crops, I rationalize my listening as stealing from a beggar (who am I, after all, to challenge one of the core beliefs of their reporting on conservatives).
Usually it is pretty harmless fare. Typically it is a celebration of minor literary figures and how they changed society in ways we just can’t fathom and even more obscure events associated with that day’s date in history. Today I did a double take when Keillor highlighted Nikita Khrushchev’s speech to the 20th Party Congress of the Soviet Union.
The text below is from the Writer’s Almanac website, I’ve edited the transcript, within the brackets, to conform to the sound file. But the boldface text is from the sound file and does not appear on the website. If you want to follow along the transcript picks up at 0:35.
It was on this day in 1958 that Nikita Khrushchev assumed control of the Soviet Union when he took over as premier of the country, five years after the death of Joseph Stalin. […] Khrushchev […] [was a leader who actually] came from the working class. […] [He] worked his way up through the ranks of the party until he became a close ally of Joseph Stalin, and [somehow survived all of Stalin’s purges].
So […] when Khrushchev [took over] there was no reason to believe he wouldn't just continue Stalin's reign of terror. [However], in 1956, [he] gave a four-hour speech to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, […] attacking Stalin's legacy and abuses of power, detailing all the innocent people Stalin had imprisoned, tortured, and murdered […] [S]ome members of the audience fainted from the shock […].
The speech was never […] [published], and Khrushchev never admitted to having made it, but word […] [got] out to intellectual circles [in the Soviet Union] […]. It was a bombshell,
Here Keillor makes a substantive departure from the transcript:
One of those young people who heard that speech was Mikhail Gorbachev who went on to finish the work Khrushchev had started: helping to end the Cold War.
After this flight of fancy Keillor returns to the transcript.
Khrushchev spent his last few years living quietly in Moscow, [after he was ousted from power]. But in 1970, the year before he died, he published the first volume of his memoirs, Khrushchev Remembers, [appeared in the US and Europe].
Leaving aside a probable historical embellishment, I don’t have Gorbachev’s memoirs in my library but it seems unlikely that he attended the 20th Congress, it would be an unlikely omission from his bio, let’s look at the statement: he went on to finish the work that Khrushchev had started: helping to end the Cold War.
Considering Khrushchev sent the Red Army into Hungary, instigated the Cuban Missile Crisis, and presided over the Berlin Wall it is hard to see how he was interested in ending the Cold War. Similarly Gorbachev used Cuban proxies to push Soviet objectives in Africa and Latin America. His interests in ending the Cold War were driven by the economic failure of the Soviet Union.
On the flip side, if Khrushchev and Gorbachev were dedicated to ending the Cold War then something and/or someone must have fought to keep it going. Keillor didn’t offer an answer here, but I’m guessing “Reagan” would appear in whatever explanation he offered.
As we grow older we’re all entitled to remember things a bit differently than they actually were. But this crosses the threshold into borderline dementia.