John Rettie was a good friend - not a Communist at all, but a tremendous journalist, and when a rookie Reuters correspondent in Moscow he broke the biggest story of his career: the details of Khrushchev's secret speech at the CPSU Congress in 1956. I recorded this interview with him when we were both in Delhi - him for the Guardian and me for the BBC - in 1995. The photo which you see above was taken when John was reporting from Colombo in the 1980s. There's an affectionate obituary of John (1925-2009) here by Richard Gott.
At my prompting, John wrote a detailed account of how he broke the story for History Workshop Journal in 2006. Here's an abstract of that article:
On the night of 24 February 1956, the Moscow headquarters of the Communist Party's Central Committee was humming with activity into the early hours, with the great black limousines of the Party elite parked all round it. This puzzled westerners in Moscow such as journalist John Rettie, since the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) had formally ended that afternoon. Soon, Rettie recalls, rumours began to circulate, fuelled by western diplomats with good connections to their Central European communist colleagues and by western correspondents of communist newspapers. It was whispered that Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, First Secretary of the CPSU, had made a sensational speech denouncing Stalin for heinous crimes including murder and torture. As it was a mere three years since Stalin's death, this seemed barely credible. Nothing appeared in the Party or government press. The unsubstantiated rumours were nevertheless so insistent that Sidney Weiland, Rettie's colleague in Reuters news agency, filed a brief report. He fully expected it to be censored and indeed it vanished into the censor's maw and was never heard of again. The following week one of Rettie's local contacts, Kostya Orlov, set up a meeting in which he confirmed and expanded the story of the speech. He also reported that in Georgia reading of the speech had provoked riots against the ‘insult’ to their national hero, and a number of Georgian civilians and Soviet soldiers had been killed. Rettie was about to leave for Sweden, where he wrote up his notes from this meeting and filed the report (with strict instructions to disguise its origins) which broke the story to the world. In Britain it appeared in the Observer in March 1956. After recounting these events Rettie goes on to explore the question who told Orlov to leak the speech, and why to Rettie. He points to the strong evidence that Khrushchev wanted the speech to be known in the rest of the world as well as in the Soviet Union, and suggests why he had been a logical person to select as the conduit.