Saturday, February 25, 2006

Speech, speech ...

The great unraveling of Communism began on this date 50 years ago, with a secret speech delivered on the final day of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union by Nikita Khruschev. No one is better qualified to discuss the matter than Robert Conquest: The Speech That Shook the World. Money quote:

To the general public, then, the speech was a revelation. In an unprecedented act of journalism, Britain’s leading liberal Sunday newspaper, the Observer, devoted an entire issue to it.
Khrushchev does not seem to have quite realized the degree of damage he might do to the Soviet Union’s image as a humanist, progressive country by speaking of official tortures and murders.
Throughout the West there was an astonishing revulsion. Those who had been totally deceived had their minds cleared (although many eventually returned to the fold, anti-Western feeling outweighing all else for those whom George Orwell described as “renegade liberals”).

Anne Applebaum also has a characteristically fine piece in the Washington Post: Happy Anniversary, Nikita Khrushchev. But Arts & Letters Daily has many more.

In An Army of Davids, Glenn Reynolds notes that, thanks to technology, workers increasingly "control the means of production, all right, but it's a far cry from communism." As Glenn is also wont to say: Heh!


  1. I wonder if that speech had any influence on Anthony Burgess's gestation of Clockwork Orange (see posting a few above), or if the timing does not work out for that theory?
    I wonder if Burgess was "trying to do an Orwell", or if some event such as Kruschev's speech provided that spark of inspiration?

  2. I don't know if the speech did, but Soviet communism certainly did. I am actually old enough to remember when the book came out and even some of the reviews (mixed, as I recall, precisely because it was seen as an attack on a favored utopianism).