Mikhail Gorbachev's speech, 2 November 1987

At the very end of the 1920s sharp struggle ensued also over the ways of putting the peasantry on the socialist road. In substance, it revealed the different attitude of the majority in the Political Bureau and of the Bukharin group on how to apply the principles of the New Economic Policy at the new stage in the development of soviet society.

The concrete conditions of that time--both at home and internationally--necessitated a considerable increase in the rate of socialist construction. The facts again confirmed that Lenin had been right.

The political discussions of that time reflected a difficult process in the party's development, marked by acute struggle over crucial problems of socialist construction. Under the leadership of the party, of its Central Committee,  heavy industry, including engineering, defense industry, and chemical industry abreast of the times were built in short order practically from scratch and the general electrification plan was completed.

The period under review also saw some losses. They were in a definite sense connected with the successes I have just referred to.  People had begun to believe in the universal effectiveness of rigid centralization, in that methods of command were the shortest and best way of resolving any and all problems. This had an effect on the attitude towards people, towards their conditions of life.

A party and government leadership system of administrative command emerged in the country and red tape gained strength, even though Lenin had warned about its danger in his day. And a corresponding structure of administration and planning began to take shape.
 

It must be said frankly: at the new stage there was a deficit of the Leninist considerate attitude to the interests of the working peasantry. Most importnat of all, there was an underestimation of the fact that the peasantry as a class had changed radically in the years since the revolution.
 

The principal figure now was the middle peasant. He had asserted himself as a farmer working the land he had received from the revoution and he had, over a whole decade, become convinced that soviet government was his government too. He had become a staunch and dependable ally of the working class. An ally on a new basis, becoming convinced in practical terms that his life was increadingly taking a turn for the better.

And if there had been more consideration for objective economic laws and if more attention had been given to the social processes taking place in the village, if in general the attitude to this vast mass of the working peasantry--most of whom had taken part in the revolution and had defended it from the White Guards and the forces of intervention--had been politically more judicious, if there had been a consistent line to promote the alliance with the mniddle peasantry against the kulak, the village moneybag, then there would not have been all those excesses that occurred in carrying out collectivization.

Today it is clear. In a tremendous undertaking, which affected the fate of the majority of the country's population there was a departure from Lenin's policy towards the peasantry.

But, comrades, if we assess the significance of collectivization as a whole in consolidating socialism in the countryside, it was in the final analysis a transformation of fundamental importance. Once established in the economy, it spread to its superstructure, restricting the development of the democratic potential of socialism and holding back the progress of socialist democracy.

But the aforesaid does not give a full picture of how complex that period was. What had happened? The time of ideological-political tests of the utmost gravity to the party was actually over.  Millions of people had joined enthusiastically inthe work of bringing about socialist transformations. The first successes were becoming apparent.

Yet at that time, methods dictated by the period of the struggle with the hostile resistance of the exploiter classes were being mechanically transferred to the period of peaceful socialist construction, when conditions had changed cardinally. An atmosphere of intolerance, hostility, and suspicion was created in the country.

I am putting things bluntly. Those were real crimes stemming from an abuse of power. Many thousands of people inside and outside the party were subjected to wholesale repressive measures. Such, comrades, is the bitter truth. Serious damage was done to the cause of socialism and to the authority of the party. And we must say this bluntly. This is necessary to assert Lenin's ideal of socialism once and for all.

There is now much discussion about the role of Stalin in our history. His was an extremely contradictory personality. To remain faithful to historical truth we have to see both Stalin's incontestable contribution to the struggle for socialism, to the defense of its gains; the gross political errors, and the abuses committed by him and by  those around him, for which our people paid a heavy price and which had grave consequences for the life of our society.

It is sometimes said that Stalin did not know of many instances of lawlessness.  Documents at our disposal show that this is not so. The guilt of Stalin and his immediate entourage before the party and the people for the wholesale repressive measures and acts of lawlessness is enormous and unforgivable. This is a lesson for all generations.

Contrary to the assertions of our ideological opponents, the Stalin personality cult was certainly not inevitable. It was alien to the nature of socialism, represented a departure from its fundamental princples, and, therefore, has no justification.