June 18, 2020

The Anti-Party Almost Coup


The Anti-Party Almost Coup
Khrushchev, TIME's Man of the Year for 1957.

They had the votes. But they did not have Marshal Georgy Zhukov. And they could not have predicted that Khrushchev would flank them.

On June 18, 1957, a group of seven Presidium members – Malenkov, Molotov, Kaganovich, Bulganin, Voroshilov, Pervukhin and Saburov – voted to oust Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary, replacing him with Bulganin. Four voted against, and thus it would seem that Khrushchev's fate was sealed.

But then the wily Nikita argued that, since he was empowered by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, not the Presidium, only the CC could vote him out. He demanded a vote, and an extraordinary session was called.

Problem was, the session was called on short notice and Khrushchev's supporters might not be able to get to Moscow in time. Zhukov mobilized military flights to make it happen and, even more importantly, the war hero himself made an impassioned speech to the assembled delegates.

Accusing the plotters (which were skillfully dubbed the "Anti-Party Group") of having blood on their hands over Stalin's atrocities (Khrushchev's Secret Speech before this body had taken place just a year before), he said his military had the power to crush them even if they voted for the plotters.

Khrushchev won the vote and the plotters were demoted (Molotov, for instance, was appointed ambassador to Mongolia). Interestingly, Zhukhov was also ousted by Khrushchev a short-time later, allegedly for harboring "Bonapartist tendencies."

Chastened, the anti-Khrushchev forces retreated to re-gather their forces. Then, seven years later, in October 1964, a group led by Leonid Brezhnev properly whipped their votes to ensure a successful ouster.

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