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Sino-Soviet split continued to widen. Tensions increased rapidly in the first few months of 1960, culminating in the publication of a lengthy statement by Chinese leaders in April 1960 during celebrations of the 90th anniversary of Lenin's birthday. 45 The statement, entitled “Long Live Leninism,” removed any doubts that Soviet officials and diplomats still had about the magnitude of the rift between the two countries. 46 Soon thereafter, in early June 1960, all the East European governments became aware of the conflict when Chinese officials voiced strong criticism of the Soviet Union at a meeting in Beijing of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). The dispute escalated a few weeks later at the Third Congress of the Romanian Communist Party in Bucharest, where Khrushchev sought to rebut the comments expressed at the WFTU meeting and to retaliate for China's decision to provide other delegates with copies of a confidential letter that Khrushchev had sent to the CCP leadership. The top Chinese official in Bucharest, Peng Zhen, responded in
This confrontation was the main topic of discussion at the next CPSU Central Committee plenum, on 14-16 July 1960. Khrushchev designated one of his closest aides on the Presidium, Frol Kozlov, to present a lengthy report to the plenum outlining "the mistaken positions of the CCP CC on fundamental questions of Marxist-Leninist theory and current international relations. "48 Kozlov reiterated all the complaints voiced by Suslov seven months earlier, but the tone of his speech was much more pessimistic. Kozlov accused the Chinese leadership of “acting surreptitiously, behind the backs of the CPSU and the other fraternal parties, to create fissures and rifts in the international Communist movement and to spread its own special views, (which) contravene sacred Leninist principles.” His speech prefigured the harsh rhetoric that would soon pervade Sino-Soviet exchanges.
At the next CPSU Central Committee plenum, on 1018 January 1961, the growing acrimony in the world Communist movement was again the main topic of discussion. By this point, the Soviet Union had withdrawn all its military technicians and advisers from China, and had begun recalling its thousands of non-military personnel, causing disarray in many of China's largest economic and technical projects and scientific research programs. At the plenum, Suslov presented a lengthy and on the surface-surprisingly upbeat assessment of the "world conference” of 81 Communist parties in Moscow in November 1960. He claimed that the meeting had "successfully resolved all these problems (of disunity in the Communist world, and had marked a new, spectacular triumph of Marxism-Leninism in the international Communist movement.":50 The Soviet Union, he declared, could now “tirelessly work to strengthen the unity, cohesion, and friendship” among socialist countries.
Despite this optimistic gloss, much of Suslov's speech at the plenum actually gave grounds for deep pessimism. Although Soviet and Chinese officials had been able to
achieve a last-minute compromise that temporarily papered over their differences, this fragile “solution” had been preceded by venomous exchanges. Suslov acknowledged that, from the outset of the conference, “the Chinese Communist leaders not only had declined to reassess their mistaken views, but had grown even more adamant in espousing anti-Leninist and anti-Marxist" policies. Suslov maintained that the CPSU Presidium had “done its best to overcome its disagreements with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party" through a series of preliminary meetings and contacts, but had failed to persuade the Chinese delegates to alter their mistaken views on crucial matters."51 All the preparatory work for the conference, according to Suslov, had been turned by the Chinese into "a source of discord.” The proceedings of the conference itself had not been made public, but Suslov informed the Central Committee that the head of the Chinese delegation, Deng Xiaoping, had delivered two speeches that were sharply at odds with the CPSU's positions, demonstrating "a complete unwillingness to find some way of overcoming the two parties' disagreements.” Suslov also noted that the Albanian delegation, led by Enver Hoxha, had sided with the Chinese participants and had expressed "bizarre, malevolent, and dogmatic views aimed solely at causing tension and dividing the conference."52 Although Soviet
» leaders had been aware since mid-1960 that Albania was aligning itself with China, Hoxha's speech at the November 1960 conference, according to Suslov, had shown for the first time what a “monstrous” form this realignment was taking
The speeches of the Chinese and Albanian delegations, Suslov told the Central Committee, had been greeted by a torrent of angry criticism. “Everyone at the conference,” he claimed, “understood that the Chinese delegation's opposition to certain points,” especially to a proposed statement regarding the need to overcome the "pernicious consequences of (Stalin's) personality cult," was motivated by “an awareness that this statement could be directed against all forms of personality cults, including the one in the Chinese Communist Party.”:53 Suslov argued that the “mistaken views of the Chinese comrades" would persist so long as Mao Zedong demanded “endless glorification" and "aspired to claim a special role in the development of Marxist-Leninist theory" and the policies of the socialist bloc:
With the obvious guidance of the CCP leadership, the Chinese press is fanning the personality cult of Com. Mao Zedong and proclaiming him the greatest Marxist-Leninist of our time” (Renmin Ribao, 7 October 1960), in the hope of staking out a special role for Mao Zedong in the international Communist movement. It is hardly accidental that CCP leaders have geared their actions over the past year toward the assumption of a dominant place among the fraternal Communist parties. 54
and 1965 was the effort China had been making to lure other Communist states and parties to its camp, building on its success with Albania. As early as the January 1961 plenum, Suslov reported that China had done its best at the November 1960 conference to line up broad support for its "mistaken and divisive" positions:
I have to acknowledge that there was a small group of waverers. In addition to the Albanians, the Burmese and Malayan representatives usually followed the lead of the Chinese comrades. The reasons for this are clear: namely, that they lived and worked for a long time in Beijing. Besides the Burmese and Malayans, the delegates from the Vietnamese Workers' Party and the Communist parties of Indonesia, Japan, and Australia also showed signs of wavering. These parties are from countries that are geographically close to the PRC, and they have close traditional ties with the CCP. Unusual pressure was applied on their representatives [by the Chinese].
Suslov acknowledged to the Central Committee that the impasse resulting from the "obduracy" of the Chinese leadership had nearly caused the conference to collapse. Although Khrushchev was able to reach a compromise with the Chinese delegation in last-ditch talks on 30 November, the bulk of the conference had given little reason to believe that the dispute was genuinely resolved. Suslov tried to put the best face on the whole matterclaiming that “our party achieved a great moral-political victory from the conference" and that “one of the most important results of the Moscow Conference was the resumption of close contacts between the CPSU CC and the Chinese Communist Party CC”—but his lengthy account of the conference belied his expressed hope that “there is now a solid basis for the strengthening of SovietChinese friendship and the unity of our parties."
The precariousness of the outcome in November 1960 became evident soon after the January 1961 plenum, as the polemics and recriminations resumed behind the scenes with ever greater stridency. Before long, the dispute flared into the open, and news of the Sino-Soviet conflict spread throughout the world. Khrushchev and Mao made a few additional attempts to reconcile their countries' differences, but the rift, if anything, grew even wider. Hopes of restoring a semblance of unity in the international Communist movement were dashed. At CPSU Central Committee plenums from late 1962 on, Soviet leaders no longer held out any hope that the split could be surmounted. Instead, they used the plenums to marshal broad support within the party for what was projected to be a long and dangerous struggle against China.
A typical session occurred in December 1963 when Khrushchev, Suslov, and a number of other CPSU Secretaries-Boris Ponomarev, the head of the CPSU CC International Department, Yurii Andropov, the head of the CPSU CC department for intra-bloc relations, and Leonid Il'ichev, the head of the CPSU CC Ideology Departmentspoke at length about the “disagreements connected with the willfully divisive actions of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”56 Coming after a year of acrimonious polemics between the Soviet Union and China, the December 1963 plenum featured endless condemnations of “the CCP leadership's resort to open polemics and other actions that, in both form and method, are unacceptable in relations between Marxist-Leninists." The speakers at the plenum claimed that the CCP leaders are now increasingly trying to carry their profoundly mistaken views on ideological matters into interstate relations (so that they can destroy the friendship and cohesion of the Communist movement and weaken the anti-imperialist front.” To ensure that CPSU members at all levels would be prepared for a confrontation with China, the CPSU Secretariat decided on 16 December 1963 to expand the distribution list for the major speeches given at the plenum.
57 One of the consistent themes about Sino-Soviet relations at the Central Committee plenums in 1963, 1964,
Over the next few years, Soviet concerns about the fissiparous effects of the Sino-Soviet split greatly increased. At the Central Committee plenum in December 1963, Yurii Andropov, the head of the CPSU CC department for intra-bloc relations, claimed that China had been secretly attempting to induce other East European countries to follow Albania's lead. He noted that the Chinese had been focusing their efforts on Poland, Hungary, and East Germany:
The Chinese leaders are carrying out a policy of crude sabotage in relation to Poland, Hungary, and the GDR. Characteristic of this is the fact that in September of this year, during conversations with a Hungarian official in China, Politburo member Zhu De declared that China would welcome it if the Hungarian comrades diverged from the CPSU's line. But, Zhu De threatened, if you remain on the side of the revisionists, we will have to take a stance against you.
Beijing's contacts with these three countries bore little fruit in the end, but Soviet leaders obviously could not be sure of that at the time. The mere likelihood that China was seeking to foment discord within the Soviet bloc was enough to spark heightened vigilance in Moscow.
Soviet concerns increased still further over the next several months when another Warsaw Pact country, Romania, began seeking a neutral position in the SinoSoviet dispute. Although the Romanians never went as far as the Albanians in pursuing outright alignment with China, the Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu refused to endorse Moscow's polemics or to join in other steps aimed at isolating Beijing. This policy had been foreshadowed as early as February 1964, when Suslov warned the CPSU Central Committee that China was redoubling its efforts to split the Soviet bloc:
These efforts by the CCP leaders, far from being limited to the ideological sphere, extend into the sphere of practical politics among socialist countries and Communist parties. In seeking to enervate the unity and cohesion of the socialist commonwealth, the CCP leadership resorts to all manner of tricks and maneuvers to disrupt economic and political relations among the socialist countries and to sow discord in their activities on the international arena. Recently, the fissiparous and subversive actions of the Chinese leaders in the world Communist movement have drastically increased. There is no longer any doubt that Beijing is seeking to achieve a schism among the Communist parties and the creation of factions and groups
that are hostile to Marxism-Leninism.60
Suslov's warning seemed even more pertinent a year later, when Romania's defiance had become more overt. In April 1964 the Romanian government issued a stinging rejection of Khrushchev's scheme for supranational economic integration within the socialist bloc (a scheme that would have relegated Romania to being little more than a supplier of agricultural goods and raw materials for the more industrialized Communist countries).61 From then on, the Romanian authorities began reorienting their foreign trade away from the Soviet Union. By 1965, Romania's divergence from the basic foreign policy line of the Warsaw Pact countries was extending well beyond foreign economic matters. In March 1965, Ceausescu declined to take part in a Consultative Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties in Moscow, which was designed to lay the groundwork for another world conference of Communist parties, following up on the November 1960 session. Romania's refusal to attend was based, at least in part, on China's boycott of the meeting. Soviet leaders had assured Ceausescu and the Chinese authorities that, in the wake of Khrushchev's ouster in October 1964, there was an opportunity to search for “new approaches and new means of achieving unity in the world Communist movement,” but neither the Chinese, nor Ceausescu, agreed to take up the offer. Romania's absence from the meeting was conspicuous as the only ruling Communist party other than China and Albania that failed to show up. (Officials from Cuba, North Vietnam, Mongolia, and North Korea all attended, as did representatives of several non-ruling Communist parties.)
At a CPSU Central Committee plenum on 24-26 March 1965, Suslov praised the consultative meeting, but noted regretfully that Romania had not taken part. He then accused the Chinese of trying to sow discord within the Warsaw Pact:
The tone of Suslov's presentation at this plenum was far more somber than his earlier reports. He even warned of Chinese efforts to stir up unrest in the Soviet Union itself, alluding to a student demonstration that Chinese officials had orchestrated in Moscow in early March 1965 to try, as Suslov put it, to “incite an anti-Soviet hysteria."63 No longer did he hold out any hope that relations with China could be ameliorated. Although Suslov affirmed that “the CPSU Presidium believes it necessary to move ahead patiently without giving in to provocations... to show the Chinese people our sincere desire to live with them in friendship,” he acknowledged that “the Chinese leadership has completely rejected all the positive suggestions in the communiqué from the Consultative Meeting.”
The increasingly harsh tone of the speeches given by Suslov and other Soviet leaders at Central Committee plenums provides a valuable way to track the deterioration of Soviet ties with China. After having sought, at the December 1959 plenum, to caution against public denunciations of China, Suslov over time had to embrace the hostile rhetoric that characterized Sino-Soviet relations. This trend corresponded with the shift in bilateral ties from the amity of the mid-1950s to the tensions in the late 1950s to the bitter dispute of the early and mid-1960s. Once the conflict was fully under way, the pronouncements by Suslov and others at the plenums were intended not only to warn about real dangers from China, but also to reassure the Central Committee that the top leaders would not compromise Soviet interests.
The Zhukov Affair
Normally, the Central Committee was not involved in military policy. That sphere of activity was left to the CPSU Presidium/Politburo, the Defense Council, the Ministry of Defense, and the CPSU CC Administrative Organs Department. Military issues were not brought before the Central Committee even for nominal approval. A partial exception came in late October 1957, when Khrushchev decided to oust Soviet defense minister Marshal Georgii Zhukov from all his senior party and ministerial positions. Khrushchev took this step to consolidate his own power, but the affair inevitably had some bearing on civil-military relations. Although it did not represent an institutional clash between civilian and military authorities (and clearly was not motivated by fears that Zhukov would try to seize power in a coup d'état), it reinforced the norm of the army's subordination to civilian (i.e., Communist Party) control.64
The declassification of the October 1957 plenum materials, amounting to several thousand pages, does not fully dispel the mystery that has long surrounded the Zhukov affair. Just four months earlier, in June 1957,
The leadership of the CCP not only is directly supporting factional groups in the fraternal countries, but is also saying that “in the future this sort of work must be greatly stepped up." The Chinese leaders declare that their disagreements with the CPSU and the other
Zhukov had sided with Khrushchev against the “AntiParty Group” and had been rewarded for his efforts by being promoted to full membership on the CPSU Presidium. Khrushchev's abrupt shift against Zhukov in October 1957 came as a shock both inside and outside the Soviet Union. The decisive maneuvers to remove Zhukov occurred while the defense minister was on an extended trip to Yugoslavia and Albania in the last few weeks of October, a trip that had been authorized by the CPSU Presidium. When Zhukov began his travels he had no inkling that he was about to be dismissed, as he acknowledged at the plenum:
had been accused of. Nor was it known whether Zhukov had tried to defend himself against the charges. The vast quantity of declassified testimony and supporting documentation introduced at the plenum, beginning with Suslov's opening speech (which outlined all of Zhukov's alleged transgressions), gives a much better sense of what the charges entailed.
For example, it had long been known that Zhukov was denounced for having proposed certain changes in highlevel military organs, but it was not known precisely what his alleged intentions were. The plenum materials indicate that Zhukov was accused of having wanted to abolish the Higher Military Council, a body consisting of all the members and candidate members of the CPSU Presidium as well as all the commanders of military districts, groups of forces, and naval fleets. The Higher Military Council was under the direct jurisdiction of the Defense Council, the supreme command organ in the USSR, whose existence had not yet been publicly disclosed. According to Suslov's speech at the plenum, Zhukov had refrained from convening the Higher Military Council and had then proposed to disband it. The CPSU Presidium, Suslov added, “rejected the defense minister's unwise pro
Some three weeks ago, when I was instructed to set off for Yugoslavia and Albania, I said goodbye to all the members of the CC (Presidium), or at least to most of them, and we spoke as though we were the closest of friends. No one said a word to me about any problem. ... I was not given the slightest hint that my behavior was somehow deemed improper. Only now are they saying this to me. ... We all parted in such good spirits and warm friendship three weeks ago that it's still hard to believe all this has suddenly happened. 65
The plenum materials also clarify what Zhukov allegedly wanted to do with the extensive system of Military Councils. Each military district, group of forces, and naval fleet had its own Military Council, which consisted of regional party secretaries as well as senior commanders and political officers from the local military units. The Military Council was responsible for "upholding the constant combat and mobilization readiness of troops, the high quality of combat and political training, and the strictness of military discipline."70 According to
» Suslov, Zhukov wanted to “transform the Military Councils into informal consultative organs under the (military] commanders," a step that supposedly would have relegated the Communist party to a subordinate role in military affairs:
In a remarkably short period of time after Zhukov's departure, Khrushchev arranged with the other Presidium members (and with senior military officers) to deprive the defense minister of all his top posts. The CPSU Presidium formally endorsed the ouster of Zhukov and the appointment of a successor, Marshal Rodion Malinovskii, at a meeting on 26 October, which Zhukov was hastily summoned to attend while he was still in Albania. The announcement of his dismissal and the appointment of Malinovskii as defense minister was carried by the TASS news agency later that day. Only after Zhukov's fate was sealed did Khrushchev convene the Central Committee.
Because the notes from Khrushchev's earlier discussions and from the relevant Presidium meetings (especially the meetings on 19 and 26 October) have not yet been released, key information about Khrushchev's motives in the affair is still unavailable. 66 The plenum documents show only what Khrushchev wanted the Central Committee to hear, not necessarily what he really believed. Nevertheless, the plenum materials do add some intriguing details to previous accounts and, if used circumspectly, shed considerable light on the reasons for Khrushchev's move against his erstwhile ally.
One of the most valuable aspects of the declassified documents, repetitive and turgid though they may be, is that they clarify the allegations against Zhukov. The general case against Zhukov had been known since a few days after the plenum, when summary materials were published in the CPSU daily Pravda.67 Official histories of the Soviet Army's political organs, published in 1964 and 1968, had provided some additional information. 68 Even so, a few of the allegations were at best unclear, and in some cases it was not known precisely what Zhukov
It didn't bother Com. Zhukov that the members of the Military Councils in the (military) districts include secretaries of the party's oblast and territorial committees and secretaries of the Central Committees of the union-republic Communist parties. It was perfectly fine with him that the secretaries of oblast committees, territorial committees, and Communist party CCs would be placed “under the commanders and not given an equal voice" in the Military Councils. 71
Suslov emphasized that “the existence of full-fledged Military Councils in no way detracts from the dignity and role of (military] commanders. On the contrary, the Military Councils allow the commanders to be certain that the decisions they make are appropriate.”72 Only a “petty tyrant,” Suslov added, would have tried to scale back the Military Councils.
Internal Affairs be replaced by military officers. What lay behind this suggestion? Wasn't it an attempt to fill the leading posts in these organs with his own people, with cadres who would be personally beholden to him? Isn't he seeking to establish his own control over the Committee on State Security and the Ministry of Internal Affairs?79
Another allegation discussed at great length at the plenum was Zhukov's supposed desire to establish a "cult of personality" around himself. One of the main things cited as evidence for this accusation was the efforts that Zhukov allegedly made to highlight the depiction of his own feats in the film "Velikaya bitva” (“The Great Battle"), a documentary about the Battle of Stalingrad. The film had been commissioned in October 1953 to replace the 1943 film “Stalingrad,” which was deemed to give undue prominence to Stalin's role in the campaign. The new documentary was completed in early 1957 but was then subject to a number of revisions. At the CPSU Presidium meeting on 26 October, Zhukov insisted that he had not been involved in the production of “Velikaya bitva," but Suslov argued at the plenum that Zhukov's denials “do not correspond to reality."73 Relying on a letter from the Soviet minister of culture, Nikolai Mikhailov, which was drafted at Khrushchev's request after the decision to remove Zhukov had been made, Suslov claimed that the defense minister had directly and actively intervened in the film-making" numerous times to “propagandize [his own cult of personality."74 Suslov cited a few other items as well—notably, the preparation of an article about World War II for the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, and the majestic depiction of Zhukov in a painting in the Soviet Army Museum-to bolster his claim that “Zhukov was deeply concerned to aggrandize his persona and his prestige, without regard for the interests of the Communist] Party." Having waged “a struggle against the well-known abuses resulting from J. V. Stalin's cult of personality," Suslov declared, “our Party must never again permit anyone to build up a cult of personality in any form whatsoever.”75
Perhaps the most serious allegation put forth by Suslov and Khrushchev was that Zhukov had been trying to take control of the army away from the party and to establish a one-man dictatorship in the armed forces."76 Khrushchev argued that there was supposed to be "a division of responsibilities among [senior) members of the party," and that no single official, not even the CPSU First Secretary (much less the defense minister), could take on all the functions of the Central Committee."77 He condemned Zhukov for allegedly having sought to “place everything, the Committee on State Security as well as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, under the Ministry of Defense.” Khrushchev added that if the situation had continued this way “for another month or so", Zhukov would have been insisting that “the Central Committee, too, must be brought under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense.'
Khrushchev produced no concrete evidence to substantiate these claims, but both he and Suslov specifically accused Zhukov of having sought to establish military jurisdiction over the main security organs:
Newly available evidence suggests that this charge was disingenuous, or at least highly misleading. The KGB's own top-secret history of its activities and organization, compiled in 1977, makes no mention of any such effort by Zhukov. On the contrary, the KGB textbook emphasizes that in the mid- and late 1950s “the CPSU Central Committee and the Soviet government” themselves sought to “fill the ranks of the state security organs with experienced party and military personnel” in order to “eliminate the consequences of the hostile activity of Beria and his accomplices.:-80 To the extent that military officers were brought into the KGB and MVD after 1953, this trend was initiated and encouraged by the top political leadership. (Khrushchev and his colleagues, after all, had learned at the time of Beria's arrest that they could count on Zhukov and other senior military officers to support the CPSU.)
The spuriousness of this particular accusation reflected a more general pattern. As valuable as the plenum materials are in spelling out the case against Zhukov, the main conclusion one can draw from the documents is that the affair was little more than a personal clash between Khrushchev and Zhukov. Despite the sinister veneer that Khrushchev gave (both at the plenum and later on in his memoirs) to Zhukov's actions, the documents leave no doubt that the charges against Zhukov were largely contrived. Zhukov was justified in pointing this out during his first speech at the plenum:
I think we have gathered here not to review individual offenses.... That's not what this is all about. In the end, the question here is political, not juridical.
Khrushchev’s motive in convening the Central Committee was similar to his (and others') motives in orchestrating the July 1953 plenum to denounce Beria. Rather than acknowledge that the ouster of Zhukov was the latest stage in a consolidation of power, Khrushchev used the October 1957 plenum to suggest that the defense minister had been removed because of genuine concerns about the Communist Party's supervision of the army.
It is true, of course, that numerous problems existed in the Soviet armed forces in 1957, and that the military's political organs were not functioning as well as most officials had hoped. It is also true that Zhukov wanted to enforce stricter discipline in the army by establishing a more orderly chain of command and by mitigating the opportunities for insubordination. And it is true that Zhukov tended to be impatient and abrasive with his
Com. Zhukov recently proposed that the chairman of the Committee on State Security and the Minister of