GREAT BRITAIN: The Curtain of Ignorance

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    Is Clem Attlee as gullible as he seems? It is hard to tell from his curious, deadpan way of writing and speaking. His sentences frequently end on a tentative note, as if the point will come in the next paragraph. He can be bafflingly bland. Sample (from his autobiographical account of his first trip to Moscow in 1936): "Unfortunately, my visit preceded by a few weeks the big purges, which removed a number of [the leading men] I had contacted, notably Marshal Tukhachevski." Attlee could walk with Dante through hell and emerge remarking that "different people had different tastes, but it did seem rather too hot."

    In a series of articles for the New York Times, Clem Attlee did register some grey reservations. "The trade unions are not organizations for the protection of the workers, they are instruments for obtaining greater production and for insuring the docility of the workers."

    ¶ "One morning some of us had a long session with representatives of the churches. They told us that freedom of religion was allowed, and the only arrests of bishops and priests had been due to their political and not to their religious activities. I was somewhat skeptical as to this, and the men we saw were, I thought, rather a hand-picked lot and not very impressive, especially the leading personality, who seemed almost as devotedly a Communist adherent as the Dean of Canterbury." -I "Regarding [trade], I do not think that one can expect a great development." Bevan had asked why classic works by Kropotkin and others were not available in the libraries. "These books were not suitable for workers to read," was the final answer. "We pointed out that this was the kind of line that had been taken by reactionary governments in the past. They were quite unimpressed . . . Here, over this vast expanse of the world, from the Elbe River to the China Sea, the workers are not to be allowed to think for themselves. Books which might cause them to think will not even be printed. The curtain of ignorance is thicker and more dangerous than the Iron Curtain."

    While Attlee coasted south, Bevan and the others made a quick trip to Japan. Bevan echoed Attlee: "It is wrong to consider that the Communists will invade other countries," said Bevan. "They propose peaceful coexistence of the East and West camps." China, he predicted, "will not be content to play second fiddle to the Soviet Union." Communist Chinese leaders seemed to have "great elasticity" compared to the "set pattern" of Russian thinking, Nye went on. "Soviet leaders when conferring with Malenkov seemed petrified with fear in his presence, rather than having respect for him."

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