Human memory is a curious and selective thing. It clings to minor incidents, as a miser hoards his gold, and flings away important happenings with the recklessness of a profligate. Thus when I went on a parliamentary mission to Berlin in the winter of 1946 there were three unimportant incidents that I now recall as if they happened last week.
The first concerned a surly, stupid Russian soldier at the entrance to the Soviet Zone who carefully held my passport upside down and studied it with marked suspicion. The second was of four French, British, Russian and American soldiers on guard in the corridor leading to a hall where the military representatives of the conquerors were in session. Suddenly the Russian soldier walked over to the American, pulled him to his feet and then danced him wildly around the floor. After which they resumed their duty.
The third cameo is of a handsome Russian soldier with lightbrown hair, standing on guard at a memorial in Unter Den Linden. He looked so youthful and so lonely that we waved to him in passing, and, with an engaging smile, he waved in return.
I have turned back to these memories because the world today is faced with the relentless cold war between the Soviet and the West. Under the dictatorship of one little man, the prodigious brandy-sw'illing Khrushchev, the world is held in the grip of suspicion and apprehension. Nor is that brandy bottle a mere caprice, like Churchill’s siren suit in the Hitler war. The staff of the London hotel where Khrushchev stayed during the famous B. and K. visit still speak with awe of his performance with the bottle.
The rise of Khrushchev to his present unchallenged position is a remarkable one. L ike most dictators he is short and believes in his star, yet his appearance is utterly undistinguished. But such are his
qualities that he has made himself into a living legend, just as did Joan of Arc, Napoleon and Hitler. Perhaps in his dreams he recalls that Napoleon died in exile and that Hitler and the Maid of Orleans w'ere consumed in flames. leans w'ere But we shall let that pass for the present.
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"The Soviets' propaganda creates its own truth as it goes along"
These introductory comments are caused by the recent arrival in my post of a fifteen-page pamphlet (published in English by the Press Department of the Soviet Embassy in London) to bring to us the full glory of the fortieth anniversary of the October Revolution in 1917. Almost the whole pamphlet consists of Khrushchev's long speech at the anniversary session of the USSR Supreme Soviet.
They are tough people, these Russians. I have been reading the speech until my eyes have gone red in sympathy—and there are still six thousand words to come.
How fortunate is Khrushchev in comparison with Eisenhower, Macmillan and Diefenbaker! Instead of one party in power and the others in opposition, the Russians have one party in power and the others in prison or in the grave.
If the Russian threat was not so ominous it would be easy to roar with ironic laughter at the tricks their leaders play on the bemused masses of workers, soldiers and peasants. A famous philosopher once declared that history is a table agreed upon. If that is true Mr. Khrushchev is the greatest fabler of ail time.
In fact, if the Soviet threat were not so serious we might remember that in the bad old Czarist days Russia produced some of the most brilliant satirists in the whole realm of literature and drama. If Chekhov were alive today imagine what he would have done with Khrushchev’s anniversary speech!
Here in all their sweet simplicity are the opening words with which he began his account of the October counter-revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky, which overthrew' Kerensky’s gentle revolution that had dethroned the Czar:
"The October Socialist Revolution is of the greatest importance in human history.”
No one will deny that claim but to go on and glorify the abject surrender that left the fighting to be done by Russia’s Western allies is enough to make the gods laugh. For sheer hypocrisy and self-glorification, 1 doubt if there have ever been such words of mewling and puking hypocrisy as these which I quote from Khrushchev’s anniversary speech:
Forty years ago our country, tormented by the Imperialist war, was on the brink of economic ruin. The policy of the bourgeoisie and the land owners had doomed Russia to dismemberment by the Imperialist sharks, to transformation into a colony of the big capitalist powers of the West.
Let us make allowance for the fact that Khrushchev was speaking to a people who have lived in quarantine for forty years. From the end ot Kerensky s brief interlude until today the Russians have been fed with propaganda, which, however false, creates its own truth as it goes along.
But, allowing for the ignorance and gullibility of the Soviet masses, surely there must be some Russians sufficiently intelligent to realize that Khrushchev's speech could not have been more intentionally false to history if he had been addressing an audience of idiot children just for the fun of it.
What then of the Soviet masses who
listened to his words? Were there none among them who wondered why the British Empire, France and, eventually, the United States waged war against imperialist Germany if their real purpose was to destroy Communist Russia?
The two world wars, of 1914-1S and 1939-45, were fought by the Western powers to prevent Germany from establishing a military tyranny over Europe. Germany, a land-locked nation, was suffering from claustrophobia intensified by an imperialistic arrogance that differed only in degree in 1914 and 1939. But where could Germany look for expansion? Not in the British Isles nor in Western Europe. What Germany wanted in both wars was to secure the wheat fields of the Ukraine. It was the bread basket that they needed more than anything else.
Thus we have two versions of history —the Russian and the Western—and,
since the Russian people have no access to truth except as it is colored by the official attitude, it might be just as well if we recalled some of the known incidents that created Communist Russia as it exists today. Here are my seven points:
1. The revolution that overthrew the Czars was not Communist, but liberal. Its leader was Kerensky who might have guided Russia to a different future if he had not loyally tried to continue the war against the Kaiser’s Germany.
2. At the end of five months the Communist counter-revolution, led by Lenin and Trotsky, overthrew Kerensky's government.
3. The members of the Russian royal family under house arrest were put to death.
4. Russia withdrew from the war.
5. Trotsky, who had run foul of Lenin, escaped to Mexico where, after a time, he was murdered.
6. The Kaiser’s Germany was finally defeated by the Western allies.
7. In 1939 Britain and France again went to war against Germany and. eventually. Italy. Russia remained neutral, but in 1941 Germany attacked the Soviet and, as always, the Russians fought courageously. With their instinct for harikari the Japanese bombed the U. S. into
the w ar, and the doom of the Axis pow -ers was sealed.
These are the facts of history, not matters of opinion or legend. Therefore, how in the name of sanity can the Russians pretend that the West planned the downfall of communism so that the capitalist world could exploit the Russian people and their territory?
The blunt and cruel truth is that the 1914 and 1939 wars were in essence civil wars fought by the Western and Central powers. Let us repeat our tribute to the bravery of the Russian armies once Hitler had forced them into the war. but the fact is that the Russian Communist rulers had done their best to keep out ot it.
According to Mr. Khrushchev, his peace-loving country in the years that followed has been busy building a kindly democratic state, with communism bringing happiness to all. But how did Stalin die? No one doubts that he was officially murdered. How did chiet ot police Beria die? He was executed by order. So the story goes on and on.
It may well be that modern science is rapidly making war on a grand scale impossible. Il may well be that Russia, free from the threat of war, will gradually develop a society in which the people will be allowed some ol the freedoms they have not known for forty years.
In fact, the Russians may even reach a point in their development when they will roar with ironic laughter at statements such as that the Western nations went to war against the Kaiser's Germany and Hitler's Germany because the\ were determined to destroy the Russian Soviet state.
If only Chekhov were alive to write a satirical comedy on the theme! But under the paternal rule of communism there is no place for irony nor for unfettered truth.
But after all what could a modern Chekhov write that would compare in comedy with the fortieth anniversary speech of Mr. Khrushchev of Russia?
I.et me end where I began. There was the stupid Russian sentry who held m\ passport upside down as he studied it: there was the comic soldier who, with a mixture of boredom and animal high spirits, waltzed the American in a hilarious dance. And there was also the gentle fair-haired young sentry who smiled in friendliness and waved his hand. Can they be molded into a common type unable to think, to judge, to dream or to pray?
When I started to write this letter there was a full red sun in the misty sk\ but in an hour it has turned to a golden glory. Perhaps some day the Red dawn of communism may also mellow. 1 still remember the words that Kerensky spoke to me when he reached London after the counter-revolution of the Communists:
‘ I gave Russia five months of freedom. And a people who have known even that much freedom will never rest until the\ have it again.” ★
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