Little Bits of History

October 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 12, 2017

1960: Nakita Khrushchev loses his temper. Lorenzo Sumulong was the head of the Filipino delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. He was also the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee giving him the right to speak at the 902nd Plenary Meeting held on this day. His political career began in 1946 and he moved through the ranks eventually making his way as a representative to the UN. His first hand experience of being a colonial nation under the rule of a foreign land, gave him insight into the plight of those who are not free to govern themselves. His remarks are in the quote below.

Khrushchev was the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR and held that position from 1953 to 1964. There is some controversy over his reaction to the statements of Sumulong. It is agreed upon that Khrushchev was incensed and came to the rostrum demanding recognition on a Point of Order, a parliamentary procedure to draw attention to a rules violation. He brushed Sumulong aside, without physically touching him, and began a diatribe against Sumulong’s speech, calling him “a jerk, a stooge, and a lackey” as well as a “toady of American imperialism”. He demanded Assembly President Frederick Boland of Ireland to call Sumulong to order. Boland warned Sumulong to avoid provocative language, although no mention of warning Khrushchev is noted.

Sumulong was given permission to continue speaking as Khrushchev went back to his seat. Khrushchev pounded his fists on his desk and may or may not (reports vary) have pounded his shoe on his desk. Sumulong’s speech was interrupted again as Mezincescu of Romania chimed in. Boland was unable to gain control of the floor and turned Mezincescu’s microphone off but the meeting continued to devolve. Finally, Boland abruptly adjourned the meeting. He struck the gavel so hard, it broke.

Khrushchev was proud of his outburst and claimed he did, in fact, bang his shoe on the desk to add vigor to his protest. The behavior was seen by his contemporaries, as embarrassing. There is some discrepancy in Khrushchev’s memory as he claimed it happened as a response to the Franco regime, but that outburst took place earlier in the month. The story, according to his granddaughter, was that Khrushchev was wearing tight and uncomfortable shoes and took them off while seated. While banging on the table, his watch fell off and when he bent to pick up his watch, he noticed his shoes, which would make even more noise than just banging his fists. Photographic evidence is scant. Regardless of whether or not a shoe was used, Khrushchev did lose his temper, and eventually his control of the USSR because of it.

My delegation, the Philippine delegation, attaches great importance to this item entitled “Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples“, the allocation of which is now under discussion.

We have been a colonized country. We have passed through all the trials and tribulations of a colonized people. It took us centuries and centuries to fight, to struggle, and to win our fight for the recognition of our independence, and, therefore, it would only be consistent with our history, our experience and our aspirations as a people that we vote in favour of having this item referred to the highest possible level of the General Assembly.

While this is not the occasion to discuss the substance of the item, I would like to place on record my delegation’s view on the import as well as on the scope, the extent, the metes and bounds of this item. We feel this to be necessary in view of the statements made at the start of our meeting by the Premier of the Soviet Union.

It is our view that the declaration proposed by the Soviet Union should cover the inalienable right to independence not only of the peoples and territories which yet remain under the rule of Western colonial Powers, but also of the peoples of Eastern Europe and elsewhere which have been deprived of the free exercise of their civil and political rights and which have been swallowed up, so to speak, by the Soviet Union. – all from Lorenzo Sumulong




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