That is a very large question, and it could take the best part of today to answer it alone. I shall try to summarize what impressed me the most, but please don’t regard this as an exhaustive answer to your question. This was the first time since the twenties that all the vital problems facing the country were actually discussed by the representatives of the Party. Of course previous conferences did discuss certain problems, but none of them really got down to a proper discussion of the issues at stake. This time it did happen, and the situation of the country was seen in all its complexity. The importance of this fact should not be underestimated.
But although many problems were posed, it has to be said that there was no clarity as to solutions. This too was stated at the conference, which should be seen as a continuation of the surge of activity to find a solution to the outstanding problems that confront our society today. The Conference itself offered a model, and what we need is for all Party forums to confront problems in this way. The second striking feature was the unusual form of the conference. There were heated debates, explosions of emotion, sincerity, spontaneous speeches, genuine applause, and slow handclaps for those whom the delegates felt had nothing to say. The audience participation was amazing. The feel of the conference was of something alive, rather than the boredom and pomposity that has usually prevailed in recent decades.
Yes, of course. But one has to go further and see what the problems were. We could start with the one which is the essence of our lives: the economy. There were very different approaches on this front. For instance, in Albakin’s speech and in other interventions, it was difficult if not impossible to see any major changes in this field since the beginning of perestroika three years ago. Albakin emphasized the fact that the 11th Five-Year Plan period, which was during the years of
I understand what you are saying, but the formal procedure is that delegates are elected by the regional and district plenums of the executive committees and not by the rank-and-file members. You can, of course, criticize this aspect of the Party constitution, but formally speaking the elections were conducted in accordance with this constitution. Moreover, I don’t think you can have only one judgement on the outcome of the elections. You are quite right to stress the efforts of Party members and non-members to influence the procedure for nominating delegates at an early stage. This was not just restricted to Moscow but was a universal, and very positive, phenomenon. The whole demand for free elections is a concrete result of perestroika. Disagreement was openly expressed with some undemocratic decisions, but alongside all this there was a traditional bureaucratic approach. Throughout the pre-conference period, what we might call the pressure of the apparatus continued to exert itself—and this has to be sharply criticized. The self-promotion of functionaries was one of the most negative phenomena of the Conference. But there were also the lessons for democracy—the very first, elementary lessons for the broad masses as well as for members of the Party. We could say that these democratic lessons are the equivalent of entrance exams to junior school.
I think the answer is very simple, although the problem we confront is itself quite complex. The fact is that history textbooks in our country, especially those concerned with Soviet history, are completely falsified. They are not just falsifications in some aspects or minor details, but total falsifications. And to make teenagers repeat all these lies in the course of their exams is, quite frankly, immoral. Therefore we had no
Yes, some steps have been taken. Some people have been entrusted with this task—and there are special teams of authors. But here again there is something which I simply cannot accept, and I have expressed my disagreement on more than one occasion. I just think it is unfair, incorrect and counter-productive for the whole country simply to follow one textbook. This is a continuation of an authoritarian and monolithic approach in the field of pedagogy, based on the principle that you should know and learn only what you are given. Nothing more. Such an approach is completely negative and needs to be rejected. Not only should a wide selection of texts be available, but also a wide range of books, which may contradict one another. This is the only way to develop the critical faculties of our students. Both the teacher and the student must have a choice.
The question of Trotsky is a very special one in many respects—at least, this is my opinion. First, none of the Bolshevik old guard around Lenin played such a major role as Trotsky did in both the Revolution and the civil war that followed. Secondly, Trotsky was the only one of Lenin’s old guard who openly criticized Stalin and Stalinism. Thirdly, Trotsky is part and parcel of the history of the International, especially with regard to a study and appraisal of Stalin’s regime. In this respect too he is like no one else from the old guard. It is a special question because getting rid of the stereotypes of Trotsky is a measure of our success in ridding ourselves of the last vestiges of Stalinism. I am not a Trotskyist sympathizer, but I am in favour of an objective assessment of his role in our history. We should report comprehensively on his work and activities and have an open mind on the question. It is impossible to get rid of the Stalinist legacy without getting rid of the Stalinist stereotype of Trotsky. That is why I insist on objectivity and attach special importance to this issue. And that is why I call for Trotsky’s rehabilitation.