GREAT BRITAIN: The Curtain of Ignorance

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One major nation, and one only, has been pronounced "aggressor" by the United Nations. That nation is Red China.

Last week Britain's Clem Attlee emerged from a month's wining and dining with the aggressors and pronounced them charming fellows. "The West has nothing to fear from Communist China," he declared. Furthermore, he assured an audience in Australia, when he stopped off for a little visit, that the Communists had given China the most honest government in its history (a matter of 5,000 years or more). His words came clearly, if a little oddly, over the sound of Communist artillery hammering Quemoy and the howls of Red Chinese leaders for the "liberation" of Formosa.

Among fellow Britons, Socialist Clement Attlee is widely regarded as a sensible man (a position that the rest of the Western world does not necessarily share). But last week Attlee and thousands of other Britons were suffering from a need to believeā€”a need to believe that Communism really is not plotting the free world's destruction (despite what the Reds have long said), plans no more nastiness (despite what the Communists and satellites have done and still do, at home and abroad), and wants only "peaceful coexistence" if the West will just extend a trusting hand. As the horror of atomic and later of hydrogen warfare burned more deeply into Britain's consciousness, the need became more insistent (every Briton knows the statistic that four to eight well-placed nuclear bombs would just about wipe out his island). As the years went by and the assault never came, the belief became easier.

To such compulsive dreamers, warnings from the U.S. became irritating saber-rattlings. Last week in the land of the U.S.'s strongest ally, the compulsive belief was the central political fact. And the trip of Clement Attlee and the seven Laborites was both the result of it and the chief encouragement for it.

Whisper in Great Cornard. Like most political tempests, this one began as a whisper in the grass roots. Young (34) Len Fisher is the local handyman in Great Cornard, a village of 1,000 souls which has drowsed on Suffolk's green plains through seven centuries of British history. He is also secretary of the local Labor Party, and early last year, he got to thinking. Like many another Briton, especially of Socialist persuasion, he was worried about the hostility between Communism and the West. And he was worried about rearming the Germans. So he sat down at a table in his cottage. In his careful, council-school hand, he wrote out:

"Resolved: That the Labor Party arrange for an official delegation to visit the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China as a step forward to more friendly relations between East and West." Eight of the village Laborites met in the cottage of old Bill Webb, the village road sweeper, and approved Len's resolution. In due course, Len's resolution reached the Labor Party's annual conference at Margate.

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