GREAT BRITAIN: The Curtain of Ignorance

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    That night Malenkov broke a personal precedent by dining with them at the British embassy, lingered long after midnight.

    Off to Peking. Next day, singing their Moscow hosts' praises, the delegation took off for Peking. Franklin burbled of the "never-to-be-forgotten" sight of the Kremlin by moonlight, described Molotov as "carefree of spirit ... He left an impression upon me of being perfectly sincere," while Malenkov "cannot resist that friendly grin when someone has made a crack at the Russians or one of their particular policies." Wrote Morgan Phillips: "I am convinced—unless I know nothing of international affairs and human be havior—that the personal friendliness shown to us in the Soviet Union has been altogether genuine . . ..There are grounds for a renewal of optimism."

    Seven British journalists (among them correspondents of the London Times and the Daily Worker) had been invited also, but long before they reached China, Morgan Phillips firmly put the press in its place. He forbade any Laborite to talk to the journalists. "We are not going to have you people breathing down our necks and have to be on our guard about what we say for 24 hours a day," said Phillips. Everywhere the group went, the Chinese were forced to double all arrangements—a plane for the delegation and a plane for the press. Reporters were shut out of factories until the delegates had left, or shunted off from corridors until the delegates had passed.

    The two sets of travelers dropped down on Peking, where the new workers' state had imposed its own bare order on the ancient city's leisurely ways. From dawn to dusk, music floated from loudspeakers to soothe and encourage the workers. Huge portraits of Mao Tse-tung, Stalin and Malenkov glowered from the walls of the Forbidden City, and soldiers armed with automatic rifles were everywhere ("to guard against invasion from Formosa," the Chinese explained). The Socialist delegates from Britain marveled at the disappearance of filth and the smell of human refuse from the streets, wondered aloud at the absence of beggars, exclaimed over the universal refusal to take a tip.

    The people, noted Unionist Harry Earnshaw, "appear happy, well-fed, and smiling—in cheerful contrast to the gloomy faces of the people in Moscow . . . We saw no evidence of hunger or famine. Indeed, it would be impossible for the people to work as hard as they do if they were not receiving adequate food." Old China hands among the correspondents disagreed: "All gaiety and charm have disappeared," wrote one. "There are obvious signs of starvation amongst many potbellied, naked little boys and girls sitting apathetically beside gutters ..."

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