London Letter


Beverley Baxter June 15 1953
London Letter


Beverley Baxter June 15 1953


London Letter

Beverley Baxter

ACCORDING to scientists the human race is growing taller. In fact when science is not engaged on preparing new devices for destroying man it is finding ways and means of prolonging his years and adding to his inches.

Yet, from my personal observation and a certain amount of historical research, I have reached the conclusion that the dynamic leadership of the world will continue to come not from the six-footers, but from the five-foot-sevens. In manly pursuits the tall ’uns may excel but when it comes to controlling human destiny the little ’uns will take charge.

I was reminded of t his when I had the pleasure of meeting President Tito on his official visit to London. Here was a man who, with a few thousand patriots, pinned down several German and Italian divisions in the war. Every day he walked with death and every night he slept wit h it. When the war was over he liquidated his rivals and formed a Communist dictatorship. He plundered the Roman Catholic Church and conducted trials on the approved Communist system. Stalin regarded him as one of the brightest jewels in his crown.

You will recall the astonishment and the doubts with which the world heard the news that he had broken with the Kremlin. The experts said that it was a trick to cheat the West. How could Yugoslavia, surrounded by hostile Soviet satellites, make open breach with the Communist Tsar in the Kremlin?

“He wants our dollars,” said the Americans and it was quite true. “He wants armaments from the West,” said the British —and it was quite true. “I am a Communist,” said Tito, “hut I refuse to bow the knee to Russian imperialism”—and it turned out to be quite true.

Tito’s defiance of the Kremlin was the biggest blow Stalin suffered after his rise to power. By that rebellious gesture Tito declared that Communism was not a creed which rose above national ambitions. “He is suffering from grandee-ism,” said Stalin scornfully, but no pistol shots rang out in Belgrade.

Therefore when I was invited with other MPs to meet Tito I had more than the usual curiosity when a famous foreigner comes to London. Was he a mountebank or a genius, a patriot or an opportunist? My first answer to these questions is that he was of the required height for men of destiny five foot seven.

He is thickset, hut not gross. In fact he looks splendidly fit. But the most remarkable feature of his appearance is his face. First, it is healthily tanned which gives a sense of physical fitness. The features are strong and regular and his eyes are full of understanding. It was in no sense a brutal face. On the contrary it was calm, dignified and intelligent.

The Roman Catholics of Britain had inundated their MPs with letters of protest against his visit. Here was a man who was not only an enemy of freedom hut an enemy of the Vatican. “Why did you rob the church of fheir lands?” asked one of my parliamentary colleagues. Without any hesitation Tito replied: “I took the land from the church and gave it to the peasants who are all Roman Cal holies. So far there has been no move by the peasants to restore the land to the church.”

He spoke English slowly, and quaintly, hut he was prepared to answer anything. Undoubtedly he was much impressed by what he saw of Great Britain even if, as a matter of precaution, we gave a good imitation of a police state. The original idea of the visit seemed wrong but it came right. Of that I am certain.

But how was it that this man, this son of a peasant, was able to defy the Axis armies, seize power in a country that was monarchial in tradition, destroy his enemies, defy Stalin and build up the strongest military force in Central and Western Europe?

To help answer that query let us look at some of those who set the design for dictatorship. In January 1939 I went to Rome on the occasion of Neville Chamberlain’s visit Continued on page 55

The dictators have at least one tiling in common; an obvious lack of inches.

London Letter


and my first glimpse of II Duce was in the absurd scene—afterward burlesqued by Charlie Chaplin in his film of The Great Dictator—when Mussolini welcomed Chamberlain and Halifax at the station. Short, pudgy, with a protruding chin, Mussolini stood at the centre of the platform while the incoming train stopped fifty yards short. Whereupon Musso hurried to meet the train just as the engine driver realized his mistake and started forward. It could only happen in Italy.

That night at the Palazzo Venezia I met the dictator in a small room. He was wearing tails instead of a uniform, which was a sartorial mistake. In fact the great man looked like a second-rate waiter in a doubtful Soho café. Next day at the march past at the Forum he stood on a hidden hox to take the salute thus adding ten inches to his stature.

Perhaps it is this inferiority of height which puts ideas into the heads of men whom nature has molded in miniature. A man of six foot or more who is domineering becomes a mere bully. But the little chap who is determined to achieve power arouses sympathy and support.

Take Hitler for example. It should always be remembered that the inferiority complex was a German discovery, and Hitler was the very embodiment of the Germans’ weakness for self-pity. How could Hitler, if he had been a giant, have screamed that the victors of the 1914-18 war were out to destroy him and, therefore, Germany? All German fairy tales end in death, just as Wagner’s Ring ends with the consuming flames of Valhalla. Self-pity is not merely an emotion, it is a passion.

The reason that Hitler did a far better job than Mussolini was that the Italians have a sense of humor, even a sense of the ridiculous, whereas the Germans are always in short supply of these qualities. Hitler made the Germans sorry for themselves by first being sorry for himself. Even when he was commander-in-chief as well as chancellor and dictator he wore only a modest uniform adorned by a single medal. Above everything he had to remain the little man.

Unfortunately for Hitler he was confronted with two men of moderate height who were not sorry for themselves at all. There was no inferiority

complex about Churchill or Stalin. Yet who is there who can declare with assurance that the aggressive qualities of both Stalin and Churchill were not originally stimulated by their modest physical stature?

In 1938 the head of the British Army was General Sir William Ironside, who was something like six foot five inches in height. Quite properly he declared early in 1939 that the British Army was ready for anything and would teach the Germans a lesson if they tried any nonsense. I remember a few hours later a Tory MP saying to me: “The

trouble with Ironside is that he is so tall that his head gets dizzy in the rarified atmosphere which he breathes.” At any rate Ironside was removed and we put in General Gort who was the proper size.

Let us look back to the first war when tall men were in power in Britain. Arthur Balfour was like an aristocratic lily with a long stem and perfect petals. The brilliant Birkenhead was also tall and dominated the House not only with the glory of his mind but his commanding physical presence. The monocled Austen Chamberlain, too, was tall and elegant.

But there was a little Welshman who was brought up by his uncle, a village cobbler. From his moderate stature L. G. looked at the giants and knew that before the war had gone far he would be the emperor and they would be his marshals. Nor was he content merely to dominate parliament. He helped to destroy the tall and mighty Kitchener, just as he forced the handsome Haig to place himself finally under the five-foot-six Foch.

It was Napoleon who created the design for modern dictatorship, and his imitators have been vast in number. He cherished the phrase The Little Corporal and encouraged it. He was exploiting a revolution against the king and the aristocrats, so what could be better than this endearing phrase to show that he had risen from the ranks?

More than that he was making an asset of his poverty of inches. In the lists of love he felt at a great disadvantage with his tubby figure and his lack of height, but on the field of battle he barked at his tall marshals like a dog with sheep. Would he have redesigned the map of Europe and rewritten history if he had stood six foot or more? It is hard to say, but the odds would undoubtedly have been against him.

I do not know how tall Premier Malenkov is hut, from his pictures,

he seems to possess about the same vertical and lateral measurements as Stalin. Logic will argue that there are a larger number of great little men than great tall men because there are more from which to draw, but logic is never the last word in wisdom.

The five-foot-four or the five-footsix looks out on the world and realizes that he must carve his way with a sharp sword. The six-footers are made into ambassadors, governors, diplomats, bank managers and directors but somewhere behind them in the ivory tower of supreme authority there is a short chap who shouts “all change” and they must do his bidding.

I know that every fairy story ends with the girl marrying a tall handsome prince. In a properly organized community we should alter that. The modern love story should always end: “So she married her five - foot - six admirer who was neither dark nor fair but sort of mouse-colored, and lived happily and successfully for the rest of their lives.”

That is what Tito taught us by his visit. And if any of my amiable critics in Maclean’s challenge what I have written today I still have Beatty, Jellicoe and Nelson to throw at them.

HAVING BEGUN with Tito let us return to him just for a moment. Many shrewd men are saying that the war of the West is against Communism and that when we sustain and strengthen a Communist regime like Yugoslavia and a Red dictator like Tito we are simply sharpening the knife that will destroy us.

Once more we must admit logic in that argument but also once more we must remember the limitations of logic. Communism can never be destroyed by the sword. The world is divided into rival camps today with a struggle on two fronts. First, there is the military threat of imperialistic Russia and its satellites—a stronger Russia than history has ever known. And second, there is the ideological war of Communism against democracy.

We shall not know peace in our time but there is no deterrent to war so potent as the knowledge that neither side can win. That position has been achieved by the immense rearmament of the West.

Ultimate victory lies not in force of arms but in the realm of ideas and idealism. If the free world of the West can create a way of life that is fair to all men and gives full opportunity and reward to merit and high achievement then Communism will disappear like darkness at the coming of dawn.

Tito had never visited the Western world before. Those understanding eyes of his must have taken in impressions that will stay with him forever. “I gave Russia five months of freedom,” Kerensky said to me many years ago, “and a nation that has known freedom will never rest until it has it again.”

Tito has seen freedom, even though it was guarded by the London police, if