January 6, 1960
Conversation of N. S. Khrushchev with Indian writer Kh[oja] A[hmed] Abbas, 6 January 1960
Indian poet Ali Sardar Jafri, Secretary of the Board of the Union of Soviet Writers Mirzo Tursun-zade, and Chief of the Press Department of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Averkievich Kharlamov were present at the conversation.
Kh. A. Abbas. This is not the first time I have been to the Soviet Union, but it is the first time that I have received such a fortunate opportunity to not only see you, Mr. Premier, but to talk with you. I thank you, with your great workload, for finding the time for a conversation with me.
Ali Sardar Jafri also expressed gratitude for the meeting.
N. S. Khrushchev. I, too, am glad to meet with you. Every conversation is mutually useful.
Kh. A. Abbas. I'm preparing a small book that I want to publish before the summit. In my book I want to talk about the thoughts of the Soviet people, about your thoughts, and your struggle for bright ideals and for peace. Not just the people of your country, but people in other countries will be glad to hear about this, for everyone justly thinks that the world is first and foremost indebted to you for the improvement in the international situation and the upcoming summit.
N. S. Khrushchev. This credit ought to be shared with everyone who fights for the relaxation of international tension and for peaceful relations and normal cooperation between all countries. For one person in the field is not a warrior, and especially in international affairs.
Kh. A. Abbas. Yes, but you were a general in this great campaign for peace.
N. S. Khrushchev. But generals without people cannot be generals. They are only generals when they know what people want and achieve the realization of these desires in practice.
Kh. A. Abbas. I don't know how much time you can devote to me. It seemed to me that I would be able to clear up all the questions that interest me. But everything depends only on you.
N. S. Khrushchev. Let's try and start and then we'll see. As they say, well begun is half done.
Kh. A. Abbas. Now, when the way to a summit has been opened, what would you like to say about the prospects for preserving peace and preventing a new war?
N. S. Khrushchev. You have touched on the most important and most extensive topic for a conversation. Both earlier and recently I have had to speak out on this question. The balance of power in the world is increasingly changing in favor of socialism. The enemies of socialism also admit this. Figuratively speaking, mankind is sort of on the edge, on the precipice. Socialism has become more firmly established and is now indestructible. We are trying to use this fact for such a noble goal as the preservation of peace and the removal of the threat of new wars that might bring an unprecedented catastrophe to mankind. Our foreign policy will continue to more strongly and clearly demonstrate the peaceful intentions of socialism. Socialism has no other goals.
Whether there will be peace or whether mankind will avoid a new war depends, of course, on many circumstances, but the main role in this should be played by the people. Not to rest for a minute, to more actively demand a peaceful settlement to all controversial problems, to seek a complete and general disarmament, a world without weapons and wars: this is the very first duty of all honest people. The government leaders of all countries should strive for this if they want truly to serve the interests of the people and the interests of all mankind.
The Soviet government and all our people have exerted and will exert the most persistent efforts so that the development of international relations proceeds in the direction of strengthening peace and so that war will forever be excluded from the life of human society.
Kh. A. Abbas. If the summit leads to an elimination of tension and a halt to the arms race, how do you see peaceful coexistence between countries?
N. S. Khrushchev. I want to express some ideas to you confidentially. On 14 January we will open a session of the USSR Supreme Soviet at which I will make a report. This is still a secret since the upcoming session has been announced, but the issue that will be discussed has not been announced. All these questions that you are raising right now will be examined in my report. Therefore, wait seven days and you will receive answers to these questions in my speech at the session.
Kh. A. Abbas. Do you think that the contemporary capitalist system in some countries has altered its classic nature by sort of assimilating some features of the socialist system, which finds a manifestation, for example, in the existence of public sector enterprises and the concept of a universal welfare state?
N. S. Khrushchev. Marx predicted all this. Now, when the enemies of socialism say that Marxism is obsolete [or] dead, they nevertheless show that they are afraid of Marxism and want to distort it as a science. The process of concentrating and centralizing capital is occurring right now. But Marxism is saying precisely that at this stage, at the highest stage of its development, capitalism is preparing and facilitating the transition from capitalism to socialism.
However, the difference is that those who want to sweeten capitalism say that capitalism itself sort of has socialist features already. But we think that the supporters of the capitalist system are only disguising and embellishing capitalism in order to made it less detestable and thus deceive people. Capitalism was greedy, and so it remains. Once the means of production are private property and hired labor is exploited, accordingly all the features of capitalism and class contradictions as they were described by Marx are completely retained.
Kh. A. Abbas. To develop this issue I would like to ask: in a number of countries large sectors of industry are already no longer in private hands, but belong to the State. Do you also include this phenomenon in the concept of disguising capitalism or there a phenomenon of another sort here?
N. S. Khrushchev. To whom does state power belong in capitalist countries? To the representative of the exploiting classes, monopolists, and the defenders of their interests. This is most clearly displayed in America. Take the American Cabinet members. Who are they? There are representatives of the DuPonts, the representatives of the Rockefellers, and the representatives of the Harrimans. Take Averell Harriman himself. He is a big capitalist and at the same time he is a member of the government, the Secretary of Commerce.
Look what a frank statement former Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy made recently. He was the Secretary for two years and then tendered [his] resignation. What motivated his request? When I worked as a director of a soap manufacturing company, he said, I got $250,000 a year, but [when] I became Secretary, I received $25,000; therefore if I cut [my] ties with soap manufacturing, I will deprive myself of those material benefits to which I was authorized. He served a firm of soap manufacturers and they sent him to the government as their representative. But when he had served the term prescribed for him he was replaced by the same soap manufacturer or hide stripper or any other representative of a capitalist firm. But all the same, it's a capitalist firm.
Or take this fact. When John Foster Dulles was not yet the Secretary of State he had a law office and actually worked for the Rockefellers. Then Dulles was made Secretary of State. Dulles takes on Rockefeller “advisers.” Who is serving whom? Rockefeller Dulles, or Dulles Rockefeller? Of course, Dulles served Rockefeller both when he was conducting his business as a lawyer and when he became Secretary of State. But, in being Secretary of State he served and defended the interests of not just the Rockefellers but monopoly capital as a whole.
Kh. A. Abbas. I completely agree with your analysis of American capitalism, for America is the highest stage of development of capitalism just as the Soviet Union represents the highest stage of socialism. Don't you suppose that somewhere between these two countries there exist other countries which have a modified capitalism?
N. S. Khrushchev. Take India. You have a big capitalist, Jamsetji Tata; I am not responsible for the accuracy, but I was once told that one of the ministers of the Indian government was an employee of the Tata concern.
Kh. A. Abbas. You are right, there was such a minister.
N. S. Khrushchev. India is a country that only recently gained its independence and was recently liberated from the colonial bosses. In India, of course, there are no forms of social relations like the United States of America has, but their nature is the same. Large or small capitalist, he has the same appetite; and if he is small, it's not because he doesn't want to be big, but [because] he simply isn't yet able to make a fortune.
If you now take all the US Cabinet secretaries then you'd find right away that they serve their main boss, capital. For example, any firm that produces weapons sends their representative to the government. Whom does he serve there? He also serves his firm there and defends its interests. He is a temporary person in the government and they pay him less there then the firm does. This is one of the characteristic features of bourgeois government. Strictly speaking this is a committee of capitalists who defend the interests of capital of a given country as a whole. All these representatives of monopolies in the government give the appearance that they observe the interests not of the capitalists but of the people. But this is only a disguise to deceive the common people.
Of course, you can object that there are also ministers in a capitalist country who come from the working class. But origin does not have any significance in this case.
The problem is not of the social origin of a particular person, but whom does he serve, whose interests he defends, and by what ideas he is guided. If you take American capitalists, then some of them came from the common people. But in coming from the common people they managed to get rich at another's expense. Their success is the success of thievery. From simple beginnings, as we say, they managed to steal and continue to rob others, getting a percentage of their capital in the form of profits.
Maksim Gorky described all this well in his works, for example, in Foma Gordeyev and the Artamanovs' Affair. Some of his merchants came from the common people, but these are robbers and brigands.
Kh. A. Abbas. In highly-developed industrial capitalist countries, the intensity of the class struggle seems somewhat blunted by the concessions made to the workers in the form of increasing wages, a higher standard of living, unemployment insurance, etc. How do you foresee the transition from capitalism to socialism in such countries?
N. S. Khrushchev. You are speaking correctly that the ruling classes of capitalist countries sometimes buy off the workers with handouts. However I might remind you that US steelworkers bravely struck for 118 days. This is the clearest manifestation of the class struggle. But it was a struggle that went on quite uniquely, in an American way. For example, I know old Russia quite well; there long strikes were more calamitous for workers than in America, since in America workers have some [strike] funds and could support striking comrades. One could cite many other examples of intense class conflict in both the US and in other Western countries.
But the path for all workers is the same, the path of struggle to create such conditions where the working class, as the most organized and conscious class and [the class] that creates material values, occupies the dominant position in running the government. In various countries this dominant position will be won in different ways in accordance with the specific conditions of the country. The possibility of the working class or the workers of a given country coming to power through the legislature is not excluded. But the working class, the workers, should have their class consciousness and display understanding when they come to power as a result of elections that the minority, which has suffered defeat in the elections, tries to win back their dominance by force. Therefore, one cannot lose sight of the fact that the electoral struggle reflects the status of the working class. The higher the self-awareness of the working class, the workers, the less the bourgeoisie can buy off the working class with handouts, and the less the capitalists have opportunities to deceive the working class with the aid of demagogy, games with the two-party system, and other kinds of tricks.
But right now, as you see, the case is that the Americans are voting to elect which millionaire or billionaire is better, Rockefeller or Harriman. When I met with Rockefeller, I told him that such elections would be impossible even in Czarist Russia. But he replied: Yes, this is possible only in the US.
This is what the American working class is now and this needs to be taken into consideration. The US is indebted to the peculiarities of its historical development by such a situation. All this, however, in no way changes the general laws of historical development.
Kh. A. Abbas. This is why I asked this question, how soon can one expect that socialism will come in such a country?
N. S. Khrushchev. The workers will wake up, capitalism will eventually wake them up. Right the American capitalists are fattening up their working class by using bait received from other countries. This fact is even more noticeable in other countries. The standard of living of the British working class is high because the standard of living of the Indian working class is low. But Britain's ability to live at the expense of India and its other former colonial possessions has been reduced to a certain degree. British capitalists are already worried because they can end up in a situation where they could not buy off the growing demands of the working class of their country by robbing other countries.
The industrialization of China and the industrialization of India and other countries of Asia and Africa will sharply reduce the opportunities for foreign capitalists to exploit the peoples of Asia. The capitalists of the US, Britain, and other countries will encounter ever greater difficulties and it will be harder for them to buy off their own working classes. The class consciousness of the working class of these countries will continue to increase with all the other consequences ensuing from this.
Kh. A. Abbas. In replying to one of the previous questions, you noted that someone is trying to assert that Marxism is supposedly obsolete in our time. Of course, such a great teaching as Marxism cannot become obsolete. But nevertheless I wanted to ask you a question in connection with this. It is thought that any theory, any science is not conclusive; it is valid for a certain period, for a certain stage until new discoveries, new scientific theories, and new scientific works appear. Do you think that with regard to social sciences Marxism is the final stage, conclusive, or can this science undergo some modifications, be expanded, and somehow change its appearance?
N. S. Khrushchev. Naturally, Karl Marx could not have foreseen all the details of how a socialist society is built and how a Communist society is built. But he pointed out the fundamental direction of development of society on the road to progress. Marx and Lenin not only proved that capitalism will be replaced by socialism, but that a classless society, a society of free and equal workers, will replace a class[-based], antagonistic society, but also marked out a reliable path to achieving this great goal through the establishment of the political power of the working class. This guidance is also pivotal in Marxism; it is confirmed in practice and history daily and hourly. The teachings of Marxism are true and scientific teachings.
But Marxism, like life itself, does not stand still. Marx and Engels could not explain all the details, for example, of the solution of the peasant problem. Experience had then not yet provided the necessary information for this. But the agrarian question had already received its scientific basis in Lenin's time. Lenin showed that the agrarian problem is solved through cooperation. On the basis of the summation of much data, he explained that the involvement of the peasants in the building of socialism was possible only through cooperation. Lenin said the main and fundamental thing. But this form of involvement of the peasants in the building of socialism encounters different aspects in various countries.
This is only one example; one can also cite examples from other fields. Marxism is a living and developing scientific teaching, inseparably associated with the life of the people, with their struggle for socialism, etc.
Kh. A. Abbas. Do you think that peaceful coexistence includes the possibility of active economic cooperation between socialist and capitalist countries? In other words, do you think that coexistence is only a negative phenomenon, that is, it presumes only the absence of war or is some economic cooperation possible, for example, in the area of using atomic energy for peaceful purposes or in the area of programs to help underdeveloped nations? Does the Soviet Union envision advancing an all-encompassing plan in this respect?
N. S. Khrushchev. We proceed exactly from the fact that the policy of peaceful coexistence presumes not just the absence of war between countries but also the development of cooperation between countries with different social systems. The sphere of such cooperation is quite large. We favor the development of trade without barriers. But what kind of trade? This is one of the forms of economic cooperation. All this is cooperation. We stress that we are pursuing cooperation and peaceful coexistence, because war would be a grave disaster for mankind.
Each nation should decide itself how it is to live, what system to have, and what views by which to abide. Therefore peaceful coexistence in no way means that we are abandoning the principles of socialism or our ideology. Coexistence thus does preclude antagonistic relations between the socialist and capitalist systems. There can be no truce in questions of ideology. If we were looking for a truce of ideologies, this would mean that we ourselves ought to abandon or demand that our enemies abandon their ideological principles. Obviously they will not abandon [them], although experience has amply proven that capitalism is steadily receding into the past. But nevertheless we are not abandoning [them], since socialism, communism is the bright present and even brighter future of all mankind. It means the disagreements between ideologies are retained even during peaceful coexistence.
But ideological differences should be decided by the peoples themselves, decided not by wars, but by choice: whose system is better. That system is better for a people that gives them genuine freedom and gives people greater spiritual and material benefits. We are absolutely confident that our system will beat the capitalist system in a peaceful competition in all respects.
Kh. A. Abbas. When you talk about material benefits I hope that you do not view this concept too narrowly.
N. S. Khrushchev. I spoke about spiritual and material [benefits].
Kh. A. Abbas. I am speaking this way because the Americans have given many material benefits and completely exhausted the people spiritually.
N. S. Khrushchev. I am perfectly confident that spiritual needs have no less value than material [ones].
Kh. A. Abbas. As a cultural figure I greatly appreciate your words.
N. S. Khrushchev. As they say, man does not live by bread alone, he also needs spiritual nourishment; this distinguishes him from the animals that live by bread and water alone. We are people, and therefore nothing human is foreign to us. The higher the material well-being of people under socialism, the higher the spiritual aspirations a person will have.
Kh. A. Abbas. I'm not asking a question right now, but I would like to express my own opinion on this score. I've been in almost all the countries of the world; I've been in the US, Britain, France, in the Scandinavian countries. However, nowhere did I see such wide access to the achievements of culture for ordinary people as exists in the Soviet Union. Nowhere have I seen such a large number of ordinary people display such great interest in art and have such wide access to its treasures. This is my personal observation that I wanted to express here.
N. S. Khrushchev. This should not provoke surprise because the higher the level of education, the higher the level of self-awareness a person has, the more he will value the great social achievements of the October Revolution, that is, socialism. Therefore for us, for our Party, both the question of industrialization and the question of public education are inseparable and the same; one cannot be without the other. A person is the most valuable thing there is in life.
But capitalists need people only as a workforce, as consumers of goods; they don't need a person as such. They display “concern” for workers only insofar as they need physical units working at their machines. Therefore when a capitalist replaces workers with automatic devices he simply throws workers out onto the street, not considering anything but his own profit. And capitalists “train” workers only insofar as this is necessary for the workers to make more products at these machines.
The Soviet state and Soviet society want people to be thoroughly developed so that they have not only a profession but also broad general knowledge, great culture, and a broad world view. Concern for a person, for his development and his needs, are first and foremost for us. Therefore, workers do not become unemployed when we introduce automatic devices and the workers' wages do not fall, they grow. Workers released from work in a particular enterprise are not thrown out into the street; they are transferred to other enterprises, to other work. If a person is for a machine in capitalist countries, in a Communist society a machine is for the person, to ease his labor. Concern for the person finds its clearest expression in the humanitarian essence of a socialist country, socialism, Communism, as the most advanced social system.
Kh. A. Abbas. But this gives rise to another question. Do you think, as industrialization grows and Communism draws nearer, that the concept of family will remain as a unifying force in human society or will this concept gradually disappear?
N. S. Khrushchev. What role does the family play right now, in your opinion?
Kh. A. Abbas. I mean that right now the family is a unique cell, a certain unit of human society that is alive, united by its own interests, sympathies, and affections toward one another. I would like to explain something in this connection. In Britain, for example, industrialization completely disrupted the family life of several large sectors of the population. In this connection I would like to know your opinion, does a danger of the collapse of the family arise from the process of industrialization itself or does this danger rest in the capitalist system, or is it possibly caused by some other factors?
N. S. Khrushchev. The status of the family under capitalism and socialism is completely different. Under capitalism the family is destroyed by a greedy ambition to get rich; each of its members wants to get rich without considering the interests of the others. Many examples could be cited when, in dividing up an inheritance, brothers or sisters reach the point of trying to kill one another. Under socialism and Communism there is no private ownership of the means of production. The means of production, the wealth of the country, and the valuables created by the labor of generations are [held in] common. Therefore here there is not just the family alone as some social cell joined by blood, but all families; all of society is turned into a sort of single kindred family, because everyone feels the need for mutual assistance. If a family is viewed as some administrative cell, as it was, for example, during the tribal system, then of course such a concept is lost now.
The Ukrainian writer Olga Kobylyanskaya, for example, wrote a work about how a man killed [his] brother in order to appropriate his land. All this was taken from reality. She just didn't give the real names of the brothers, but as was confirmed, she herself was witness to this incident.
Here's the graphic essence of the family in conditions of capitalist reality for you, here's the family under capitalism. For many such examples can be cited. They have been reflected in many works of world literature. What is left of the family when brother kills brother in order to appropriate the land that needs to be shared with the brother as [their] patrimony?
Only in our time, under socialism and Communism, are good relations actually maintained and a feeling of mutual assistance developed, not only between brothers and sisters but between people in general, regardless of whether they are related or are the children of one father or mother. Such good human relations will develop and strengthen as [we] move toward Communism.
Kh. A. Abbas. You have touched on life under Communism. It would be interesting to hear from you, a person who is building Communism in the Soviet Union, what in your opinion are the final ends of the development of human society? In other words, how do you imagine Communist society? I wanted to hear this from you in order that people thereby get a picture of the world and how it will be in the opinion of the Soviet Union. As far as we know, this will be a completely different society, a society standing at a much higher level of development.
N. S. Khrushchev. Much has already been said on this subject. Karl Marx even identified the great goal that we call Communism and pointed the way toward it. This goal is to ensure the satisfaction of the growing material and spiritual aspirations of the people in order that labor become a spiritual need, satisfaction, and joy for people, so that a person does not exhaust either his spiritual nor physical energy, and works according to his resources and abilities, and receives according to his needs. Under Communism work will not be exhausting labor. As you know, in order that he preserve himself physically and spiritually, each person needs to work in moderation and rest in moderation in order that he might live normally and feel like a real human being. Under Communism all the critically necessary needs of a person, both material and physical, will be satisfied. People will develop in harmony, both spiritually and physically.
Can mankind achieve this goal? I think that if you're talking about Soviet society, then this goal is already near. If in the seven-year plan we can, and I think that we can, switch from a 7- and 6-hour workday to a 6- and 5-hour workday, then obviously in succeeding years it will be possible to switch to a 5- and possibly to a 4-hour workday. Thus a person will have enough free time after work and the fulfillment of his labor duty to society to be able to increase his education and improve his knowledge and experience in the field of his choice.
We are confident that under Communism people will use their free time more wisely. They will all be able to get a higher education and deal with questions they care about, especially, for example, devoting more attention to art, literature, etc. The complete material and spiritual assurance of society will be achieved; [society] will not know such evils of present-day society as war, unemployment, famine, etc. It will be a highly organized, harmonious, healthy, strong, vigorous, and viable society.
Kh. A. Abbas. You said that if one is talking about the Soviet Union, this is not a matter of the remote future. How many years need to pass, do you think?
N. S. Khrushchev. We are just now dealing with working out this problem. I think in somewhere around 1975-1980 we will have many of the necessary material capabilities in order to provide high living standards for our people if, of course, there is no war. But if we have managed to agree on a reduction of armed forces, their disbandment, elimination, and complete disarmament with Western countries, then the enormous resources freed up as a result of this could right away be put toward an accelerated improvement in the standard of living of the people and a very quick movement of Soviet society toward Communism. But even if there is no disarmament, if weapons remain at their current levels, then we have every reason to expect that we will achieve these goals by 1975-1980.
Kh. A. Abbas. Do you assume that the State will wither away?
N. S. Khrushchev. In the literal sense that Marx spoke of and that we think completely correct, it still will not happen because a complete withering away of the State is possible only when mankind forms one general world commune. Everything will depend on whether or not capitalist countries remain by that time.
What is withering away of the State? Withering away of the State means the elimination of the agencies of coercion: the army, the police, the courts, etc. But as long as capitalist countries exist, with all their defects and hostile designs on socialism, obviously we will need to have certain government bodies, although possibly not on such a large scale as today, since the necessity to have means of defense from capitalist countries will remain.
As regards the means of coercion, then this is an internal matter: there are already no antagonistic classes in our country now; we have reduced our armed forces and police forces [militsiya] considerably. A great many functions that earlier were performed by the government have now been shifted or will be shifted to the public – to trade union, Komsomol, and other mass organizations. This process will be accelerated in the future. But we will need some means of defense from the outside capitalist world until capitalist countries no longer exist.
Kh. A. Abbas. Do you think that even during the passage of these 15-20 years some kind of personal material and financial interest will be required so that people will work better?
N. S. Khrushchev. I think you will see by this time that we will still have money. Accordingly, there will also exist some sort of principle of payment in accordance with the quality and quantity of labor expended. I think that such a system will still remain by this time. But, evidently, the gap between highly-paid and low-paid labor will be quite insignificant.
If money is retained, then it will of course have some importance. But it is very difficult right now to make any specific assumptions on this score because time passes quickly and many new questions arise. In our experience 15-20 years is a long period. In this period science and technology might present us with surprises that would create such possibilities that we cannot even foresee right now.
Therefore it is of no importance whether all this happens in 15 or 20 years. We know the direction in which our society is developing and we are accelerating the movement in this direction, that is, in the direction of the further development of our socialist system.
Right now some people in the West are still afraid of Communism and its enemies make use of this – they try to frighten people with Communism. But later, when people recognize all those advantages that Communism brings them, the fear of Communism will seem like a vestige of ignorance and people will then regard Communism in another way and be ashamed of their misconceptions, that they once had an incorrect idea about Communism, and how they regarded it. But time is needed for all this. Right now you can see how quickly the opinion of people is changing and with each year that we live, people everywhere will more and more be convinced that Communist society is the most just society that provides the best standard of living for people.
Kh. A. Abbas. Now, it seems, when we have received the clearest idea of what the economic basis of this future society will be I would like for you to say some words about what the culture and art of this highest stage of development of society will be, in your conception.
N. S. Khrushchev. I would like to afford you the opportunity to fantasize on this subject because this is a field close to you and I think that you yourself could say much about the subject you have touched on.
Kh. A. Abbas. Then I would like to ask a question about national culture. In the Soviet Union right now, insofar as I understand, there is some flow of nationalities, that is, the representatives of various nationalities freely move from one republic to another, settle in different places, and begin to work there. This is especially felt in Siberia, in the new lands, and in Kazakhstan. How, in your opinion, does this process influence national culture?
N. S. Khrushchev. People will retain their national features and culture for a long time. But evidently mankind will nevertheless move to some common culture along a common path of progress, and each people will do its part in creating a common human culture. Its developing national culture will be by such contributions of each people. But one ought to be careful in making judgments on this question. We think that one ought to develop a culture that is socialist in content and in direction at a given stage, but that the national culture of each people needs to be raised to do this. Our present goal in this area is to continue a culture that is national in form and socialist in content. This is the correct formula and it is being retained to this day. Our peoples have achieved great progress based on this and guided by it. Peoples more developed in the economic and cultural sense should help peoples who have lagged behind in their economic and cultural development. In the Soviet Union the cultures of all our peoples have been more or less made equal. Cde. Tursun-zade, a Tajik, whose native land was oppressed and in a semicolonial position, can tell you much about this.
Kh. A. Abbas. It is always interesting for readers of the entire world to know what the opinion of the great people of the world is about literature and culture. Therefore I would like to ask who is your favorite author?
N. S. Khrushchev. Of the past?
Kh. A. Abbas. The favorite of the past, but nevertheless your favorite in general.
N. S. Khrushchev. If one talks of the strongest impression on people who have familiarized themselves with works of fiction, then it seems to me the works of Leo Tolstoy. The works of Maxim Gorky are profoundly exciting. I also love to read Anton Chekhov.
As regards our Soviet writers then I wouldn't want to offend anyone. We have a great many good writers. Therefore, if I named someone I would put him and the other writers in an awkward position. We have a great many worthy writers and we treat them with great respect. I wouldn't want to select any of them. Undoubtedly, however, the writers themselves will select the most talented from among their midst such as Mikhail Sholokhov. Therefore I permitted myself last year to say that this is one of our great contemporary writers. This is recognized not only by readers but by the writers themselves.
Kh. A. Abbas. Do you have favorite foreign classic authors?
N. S. Khrushchev. Yes. But I have to admit that right now I don't have much time to read either foreign or our Soviet writers. Politics consumes all my time and therefore I am forced to divide it not according to my wishes and inclinations but depending on the nature of my work.
Kh. A. Abbas. It would be very interesting to know your opinion of classical poets; I will leave out contemporary ones.
N. S. Khrushchev. Aleksandr Pushkin, the father of Russian poetry, and everyone recognizes this. But apparently no one has described the peasant mind better than Nikolai Nekrasov. I also respect Aleksey Kol'tsov and Ivan Nikitin. These are classic poets. I also have a high opinion of our contemporary poet, Aleksandr Tvardovsky. I also love to hear when Vladimir Mayakovsky's verses are read, but I am not able to read them myself.
Kh. A. Abbas. Do you like to listen when someone speaks them well?
N. S. Khrushchev. Yes. They are very pointed and neat, but complex in their form for reading.
We have many good writers, poets, and playwrights. We political leaders are somewhat guilty before writers. They might be offended by us but we might resent ourselves to some degree because we read more reports from our ambassadors, ideas, statements, and suggestions of such people who deal with the practical building of a Communist society in various fields. We read these documents by necessity, by virtue of our duty, but we have little opportunity to read fiction.
For example, I like the works of Emile Zola. These are remarkable works. When I read his book about miners I saw my own life, my own mine, my own life. Especially since I myself worked in mines owned by a French company; therefore the procedures and organization there were evidently about the same as in France.
The writer Nikolai Aleksandrovich Rubakin also has a work about miners, smaller than Zola's, but quite deep in content. It is called Sredi Shakterov [Among the Miners]. There it gives a description of the customs and life of miners.
When I get old and am no longer able to work, they'll evidently pension me off, and then I'll get to the stack of books I've been putting away for my free time.
Kh. A. Abbas. But we wanted to get a list of books that you are putting away so that we also could stock up these books for our own pastime.
Mr. Khrushchev, you said that you were a miner at one time. Could you tell me whether you experienced any interesting events at that time, what were your most interesting thoughts then, and in general, what ideas did you have then and what did you want to be then?
N. S. Khrushchev. I lived with the same ideas and thoughts as my contemporaries and comrades. We had common misfortunes and pleasures. But my innermost thoughts of that time have been fulfilled. I wanted to fight against capitalism and received this opportunity. We are building a new, Communist society and therefore I am pleased by the successes of the working class of my country and other countries.
I want to make sure that you understand me correctly. I was not thinking then of becoming the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. But you will say that I nourished extremely egoistic intentions even in my youth. To be Chairman of the Council of Ministers is not a dream, but a responsibility that the Party and the people have entrusted to me. I am a revolutionary, a political leader, and therefore I think that my dreams were realized when our people overthrew the yoke of the capitalists and landowners, when they built socialism, and began the building of a Communist society.
Kh. A. Abbas. It would be interesting to know when, at what age, you first began to understand the ideas of socialism, for at that time it was something new that had recently appeared.
N. S. Khrushchev. In my youth when I began to work at a factory in an environment of workers, and I began to join the common struggle.
Kh. A. Abbas. You worked at a factory before the mine?
N. S. Khrushchev. Yes, I worked at a factory.
Kh. A. Abbas. What kind of factory was it. What did it produce?
N. S. Khrushchev. It was a machine building factory. Right now it is a large factory. Then it was comparatively small, about 300 workers worked there. It belonged to Germans, the Bosse and [Genifa] firm. Later this factory became the property of Bosse alone.
Kh. A. Abbas. In your youth did you work almost all the time at enterprises of foreign capitalists?
N. S. Khrushchev. In southern Russia almost all industry was in the hands of foreigners.
Kh. A. Abbas. And they lived there themselves or did they operate through their agents?
N. S. Khrushchev. They had managers. Many metallurgical works belonged to Englishmen, chemical enterprises to Belgians, and many coal mines to Frenchmen and Belgians. A considerable number of machinebuilding factories belonged to Germans. Of course, Russian capitalists, who were no better than Germans, Britons, and other exploiters, also were bosses there.
Kh. A. Abbas. Where was the factory where you worked located?
N. S. Khrushchev. In the Donbass. This factory is now called “15-letiye Komsomola [the 15th Anniversary of the Komsomol]”. Now it is a large factory and thousands of workers work there.
Kh. A. Abbas. My friend the poet Ali Sardar Jafri wanted to know what your opinion was of lyric poetry, since he is both a Communist and a lyric poet at the same time.
Ali Sardar Jafri. I also write political verses.
N. S. Khrushchev. I happened to work a long time in Ukraine and therefore I am not very familiar with Ukrainian poetry. I love the poetry of Ukrainian poet Vladimir Sosyura. Andrey Malyshko is a good poet. Previously he was considered young but now they have begun to consider him an elder. From Ukrainian poets of the older generation I can name Pavel Grigor'yevich Tychin, Maksim Faddeyevich Ryl'sky, and Nikolay Platonovich Bazhan.
Ali Sardar Jafri. I wanted to explain one thing. The problem is that before I left India my friends, Indian writers – the majority of whom are progressive people – asked me to find out what the status of lyric poetry is in the Soviet Union. Therefore yesterday I asked my friend Mirzo Tursun-zade to give me as much lyrical poetry as possible to take with me as a gift for my Indian friends. But today I have had the great honor to meet with you and therefore I have decided to ask you this question – who is your favorite lyric poet?
N. S. Khrushchev. In the class struggle any weapon is good if it is well-sharpened and hits [the mark] purposefully. But poetry is a very sharp weapon. Gorky was not a poet, but his poem “Burevestnik [Stormy Petrel]” is a provocative [prizyvnoye] poem. There was no worker who had begun to think more clearly as the member of a class, who would not have read and not have known this poem. Therefore poetry plays a great role in raising the consciousness of the people. It inspires them to struggle for their class interests.
Kh. A. Abbas. Well, besides the class struggle, what value does lyric poetry have for the happiness and for the life of the people, in your opinion?
N. S. Khrushchev. But what else is happiness, in your opinion?
Kh. A. Abbas. For example, there is no class struggle in the Soviet Union. Is there a place for lyric poetry in such a society?
N. S. Khrushchev. But why not? In Ukraine, for example, I heard one song whose words were written by Malyshko, it seems, it was called “Mat' [Mother]” and Mayboroda wrote the music to it. It is a delight to hear it. The feelings there, love for a mother, are so deep; this can be understood as love for one's mother and love for one's motherland. This is an emotional, stirring song.
There are no antagonistic classes in our country; accordingly there is also no class struggle. This is natural. Our people are united by a common desire. We want to build a Communist society in our country, that is, to ensure the full development of all the material and spiritual resources of society. But we are not egoists. We also want other peoples to achieve the same successes. Therefore we are doing and will be doing everything to point out the true path and how peoples might achieve a better life through our example. And there is a place in this cause for everything. A use for every literary genre will be found – prose, drama, lyric poetry, and others. And fables and satire? These are also strong weapons. For example, Mikhalkov's fables are a good weapon in our struggle.
In a word, any weapon is good in a Communist society if it helps strike down shortcomings, clears the path in the struggle for the building of a Communist society, inspires people to this struggle, and expands their world view.
Kh. A. Abbas. In the last few years you have been occupied with what I would call a campaign for peace, and in this campaign of yours you met with a great many prominent leaders of various countries. Could you say a few words about your impressions from the meetings with people who lead various countries, about such people as President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Nehru, or the leaders of other countries with whom you met? What is their role in the struggle for peace, in your opinion?
N. S. Khrushchev. I wouldn't like to give characterizations of various government figures right now because this would mean taking too much on myself. These are worthy people and I regard them with respect for their work if in their work they are guided by considerations for the good of the people and ensuring peace. But I repeat that I would not like to give any characterizations because it would obligate me too much.
Kh. A. Abbas. Next month, as far as I know, you plan to go to Indonesia on a friendly visit. Our people retain very pleasant impressions of your first historic visit to our country when you displayed such a keen and friendly interest in the various development plans of India. Will you have time to familiarize yourself with the progress that has been achieved in carrying out these plans? Several of our endeavors, for example, such a construction project as Bhilai, have received substantial friendly aid from the Soviet Union and are a monument to international cooperation in the area of peaceful construction.
N. S. Khrushchev. Before the meeting with you today, I met with Indian Ambassador Mr. Krishna Menon who passed me a message from the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, with an invitation to stop in Delhi en route to Indonesia. I asked your ambassador to pass on my gratitude to Mr. Nehru and said that I hope to make use of his kindness and visit Delhi without fail and possibly also Bhilai. I have also been advised to visit a government agricultural farm. I don't remember the name of the region where it is located. When we were in India, we gave a set of agricultural machinery that is being used at this farm right now. They say that this is a good farm and it would be interesting to see it.
Kh. A. Abbas. It is also not far from Delhi, so you can [see it] if you come.
N. S. Khrushchev. I would be happy to meet with Mr. Nehru and see India again. I have very good memories and I would now like to add to my impressions.
Kh. A. Abbas. About when will this be?
N. S. Khrushchev. It will evidently be in the middle of February.
Kh. A. Abbas. So we can send very good news to India.
N. S. Khrushchev. A notice will be published in the press tomorrow about the reception of Indian Ambassador, Mr. Menon, and about the invitation he passed to me from Mr. Nehru to visit India en route to Indonesia.
Kh. A. Abbas. You are a friend of the leaders of the peoples of both China and India. At the present time, an unfortunate situation has arisen with respect to these two friendly countries. As a true and respected friend of both these countries what would you like to say on this problem?
N. S. Khrushchev. We have already spoken out about this on behalf of our own government. We are very sorry that incidents have occurred on the border between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of India and that there were losses on one side or another. I think that this is a misunderstanding because I cannot imagine that one side or another would pursue aggressive goals or the object of seizing some territory. Efforts to eliminate the misunderstandings that have arisen need to be continued and the good friendly relations that were established between India and China need to be restored. The Soviet people will only be happy about this because the unbreakable fraternal bonds link us with the Chinese People's Republic and our friendly relations with the Republic of India continue to develop.
Kh. A. Abbas. The last question. Soviet science has achieved great successes, launching their own space rockets; the “Lunnik [moon rocket]” around the Moon, and photographing its back side. This event, this achievement excited all mankind and inspired many poets to write various poems about this. My friend Ali Sardar Jafri, who is with us here, has also written remarkable poetry about this event. I would like to ask how this experiment, which, it seems to us cost a lot of money, can facilitate human happiness and what, to put it succinctly, kind of practical advantages there are for human society and for the happiness of Man that result from this experiment?
N. S. Khrushchev. The possibility is not precluded that at some time rockets will become a form of transportation to the Moon and other planets. Knowledge of the forces of nature have great important for mankind in general. If you take religious writings, then they have restricted the limit of existence of the gods quite a bit, placing them in storm and other clouds. The launch of a rocket with a camera expands the knowledge of people, expands their world view, and is an important step forward on the road to researching space. It is hard even now to foresee what results this research might give mankind, but the results will without question be immense.
But this is a very clear demonstration in general of the boundless capabilities of human genius. And our people are very happy to overcome Earth's gravity and that Soviet scientists, workers, and technicians managed to escape into space before others. To some degree this serves for us, for a socialist State, as a school diploma.
Kh. A. Abbas. Why as a school diploma?
N. S. Khrushchev. I wanted to express myself more modestly because this is about our country, which I represent.
Kh. A. Abbas. Yes, this might be a school diploma in space, but on Earth it is a doctoral degree.
N. S. Khrushchev. I agree that this has great importance. If you're saying that this is a doctoral dissertation then this is a doctoral dissertation with the seal of a socialist state. This is a new achievement of a new society. This is evidence of the maturity of our system.
All the Soviet people are very happy for these great successes of Soviet science and technology. I remember how in the first days of the Revolution many representatives of the Russian intelligentsia and the intelligentsia of the other peoples of the former Czarist Russia did not understand the significance of the events that had occurred and sometimes said that the culture that had been created over the centuries would be trampled and destroyed. All sorts of statements were made that the Revolution would supposedly recognize only material values and not spiritual and cultural values. But now even our enemies admit that socialism has bloomed and achieved enormous successes, our literature and all forms of art have bloomed, our science has flourished immensely, and now we, figuratively speaking, are the first to receive a doctoral degree thanks to the launch of our rocket to the Moon. Not a bad start.
Kh. A. Abbas. It seems to me that this is not a bad end to the conversation. I am very glad that you are coming to Bhilai. Perhaps you don't know that I took part in the creation of a joint Soviet-Indian film, Afanasiy Nikitin. Today we talked about the creation of a new feature film dedicated to the engineers and builders of the Bhilai works. This is a film in which both Soviet and Indian actors will participate. A joint production will be made.
N. S. Khrushchev. Very good. I have seen the film Afanasiy Nikitin. It is a good picture and I liked it. I know about your contribution to this matter. I can congratulate you. I wish you success in the creation of the new film. If that was a film about ancient history, then this is about the most real modern life. This is very good.
Kh. A. Abbas. We thank you for devoting so much time to us, especially at the end of a busy workday. We ask your pardon for this. We also ask your pardon if any questions that were asked were out of place or inappropriate.
N. S. Khrushchev. No matter. There can always be any questions.
Responding to questions about contemporary capitalist states and the transition from capitalism to socialism, Khrushchev discusses the nature of socialism, capitalism and class struggle, comparing the situation in the Soviet Union to that in the United States and Great Britain. Khrushchev discusses the progression of Marxism and his belief in the possible peaceful coexistence of capitalist and socialist countries. However, he emphasizes the spiritual and material advantages of socialism. The conversation ends with a discussion of poetry and of the scientific advances of the Soviet Union, particularly in space. Khrushchev's upcoming visit to India is mentioned.
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