GREAT BRITAIN: The Curtain of Ignorance

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    The conference did not get to Len's resolution last year. But it caught the eye of General Secretary Morgan Phillips, a stocky ex-miner from Wales, one of Labor's shrewdest political brains and a politico who can sniff a budding political bloom a year off. Had not the Conservatives profited by Churchill's appeal for one more "parley at the summit"? Phillips dispatched a letter to Peking. Months later, at Geneva, China's Chou En-lai gave a benevolent go-ahead.

    If it had not been for Clement Attlee, the trip might have been just another junket. But 71-year-old Clem Attlee, who had been Prime Minister of Great Britain (1945-51) and might be again, decided to go himself. Britons never forget that Attlee was the man who, in 1947, ordered Britain to rearm against the threat of Communism, who with these words sent British troops into Korea in 1950 to repel Communist aggressors: "They talk of freedom while they murder it. They talk of peace while they support aggression. They are ruthless and unscrupulous hypocrites who pretend to virtues which their philosophy rejects." "They won't fool old Clem," said pub pundits with satisfaction.

    Mission to Moscow. Why did Attlee go? In political terms, it was because he knew that rabble-rousing Nye Bevan would go. Attlee, as a supporter of German rearmament, well knew that he will come under heavy attack from Bevan's left-wing supporters at the Labor Party conference at Scarborough late this month. If Attlee did not go, Nye would appear the anointed apostle of peace, bringing fair-sounding pledges from Malenkov and Mao. And Bevan could paint Attlee as the dour and unpopular proponent of "Guns for the Huns" who refused to go.

    Besides, as Socialist Richard Grossman put it: "Attlee has seized the peace initiative from Churchill." There were risks.

    He might annoy the U.S. (which he has-often done) or he might make a fool of himself (ditto). But baiting the U.S. is always a politically profitable exercise in Britain. As for making a fool of himself, Britons have never condemned any statesman for going anywhere with the hand of friendship extended—not even (at the time) Neville Chamberlain.

    Politically, it was a sound guess. Polls showed that Britons approved the trip more than 2 to 1. Labor voters were for it overwhelmingly. Some Tory papers deplored the trip, but chiefly because it might offend the U.S. The belief in "peaceful coexistence" is not exclusive to Socialists in Britain.

    The little group of seven men and one woman who climbed aboard a plane early last month and set off for Moscow looked as nondescript as any lot of gawking sightseers. There was little old (69) Wilfred Burke, a colorless trade unionist whom rotation had made chairman of the Labor Party. Three others were hard-knuckled unionists: knobby Harry Earnshaw of the textile workers, big, handsome Harry Franklin of the railwaymen, shrewd, balding Sam Watson, a longtime battler of Communists in Durham's "Little Moscow" coal fields. And there was tall, leggy Dr. Edith Summerskill, onetime Minister of National Insurance and a militant feminist, who has terrified British males of all political hues by demanding that husbands pay their wives wages.

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