Beverley Baxter December 15 1950


Beverley Baxter December 15 1950



Beverley Baxter

THE late David Lloyd George once remarked that the greatest nuisance in the House of Commons was the M.P. who had been to Bulgaria during the recess. “There he is,” said L. G., his eyes twinkling at the thought, “an expert forever and forever on Bulgarian affairs because he spent a week end in Sofia. The mere mention of the Balkans and he is on his feet determined to give the House the benefit of his firsthand experience.”

Today, however, things have changed. The one man we want to meet, the one man we want to listen to, is the fellow who has been to Russia. And what does he tell us? The people are badly dressed, the factories are modern, the shops are expensive, the food is good, the ballet is magnificent and everyone looks suspiciously at a foreigner.

So that’s Russia! Such is the startling explanation of the great enigma. It never occurs to us that every word of it could apply equally to Britain, except about the food. I hope to go to Russia next spring, if plans do not miscarry, and no doubt my reports will run to the same established pattern. The ballet is wonderful !

Yet this unknown country, this vast collection of Soviet republics casts its shadow on every one of our homes. We plan the future of our children but we know in our hearts that Russia may bring all plans and dreams crumbling to the ground. International politics have become a Russian ballet in themselves.

Is war inevitable? Can we live in peace, albeit an uneasy peace, with expansionist Russia? Can freedom and Communism exist side by side? These are the hammer-stroke questions which sound their clamorous tongues every hour of the day. Is it possible to end this struggle except by war?

Anyone who thinks a modern war settles anything should have his head examined. War is not a policy, it is a violent interruption of policy. Sometimes, like an amputation, it is necessary to save the life of the patient, but it cannot restore the limb that has gone. If the Western world eventually fights Russia it will not be to destroy Communism but to maintain our physical survival. It might well be that the only victor of another world war would be Communism, even if Russia went down in flames.

If we clear our minds of all the distractions of controversy we should see clearly that the world situation resolves itself into two propositions:

1. The 100-year-old struggle of socialist Communism against the capitalist system is nearing its climax.

2. The ideological struggle is intensified by the old, old threat of Russian expansionism using Communist parties throughout the world as fifth columnists.

There were at least two men who foresaw this development with clear eyes. It is strange to couple their names but I refer to Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain. While Chamberlain’s critics in the U. S. and Canada were urging him to be tough with Hitler (and making certain they would not give him any armed support if he did) Chamberlain said to some of us one night in private: “The first gun fired in a European war will see the rise of Asia against the West.”

Almost at the same moment Hitler was saying to the foreign minister of Rumania: “And if France and Britain fight Germany whom do we fight for? —For Russia!” The maniacal murderer of Berchtesgaden was seeing clearly for once in his life. What a tragedy that he allowed his vaulting ambitions to end that moment of sanity.

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Hut it would be unwise to place too much importance on the personalities and decisions of individuals. The clear unanswerable truth is that all revolutions conform to pattern. They start from the bottom with the idea that the “have-nots” shall seize the possessions of the “haves.”

But since a mob cannot lead itself it must eventually find the Strong Man to do the job. So the French found Napoleon, or Napoleon found the French—it is a distinction without a difference—and the rivers of Europe ran with blood. The English found their Cromwell, the Germans found their Hitler, the Irish found their De Valera, the Chinese found their Sun Yat-sen. the Italians found their Mussolini. and the Russians found their Lenin. And in every case death and warfare followed in the wake.

I am not arguing that revolution is necessarily a crime against humanity. I am merely stating that it is an expression of the mob and becomes the tool of the tyrant.

The Cruelty of Revolution

Violent revolution, like war, never settles anything. It merely substitutes one tyranny for another and, usually, the second is more severe than the first. It may look like progress but the expulsion of King Alfonso makes room for General Franco, just as the end of the Tzars is the beginning of Lenin and Stalin. The violent revolution destroys itself whereas the graduated revolution without bloodshed can alter almost anything from the tides to the seasons. You might say that America is an exception and that her revolution gave birth to a nation. That is partially true but at best it brought the baby somewhat earlier than was expected. Nothing could have prevented the ultimate creation of an independent United States.

Historically there is a definite similarity between the position of Russia today and France at the birth of the 19th century. The cruelty of the French Revolution shocked the human conscience throughout the civilized world, but the cry of “Liberté, Egalité. Fraternité” won the minds of idealists in every country. Even among the English aristocrats there were many who saw in Napoleon’s campaigns a crusade to bring freedom and equality to the world.

But there were two men who did not allow their minds to become confused. One was Napoleon, who was determined not only to enslave the French but all Europe; and the other was the Duke of Wellington, who was damned well determined to see that he didn’t. And if my language seems out of place may I remind you that Wellington was a great swearer?

Two Blows To Red Prestige

Napoleon faced a coalition led by England; Stalin faces a coalition led by the U. S. “Wherever my armies went,” said Napoleon in exile, “there we found British ships. It was the sea that defeated my armies.” Wherever Stalin turns today there is the terrible, unfathomable might of the U. S. allied to the endless resources of the British Empire. He knows that he can put Europe to the sword but I liat in the end there can only be for him the poisoned phial or the firing squad.

The Berlin air lift and the war in Korea have been staggering blows to Russian prestige. Therefore we are entitled to assume that these two factors, plus the atom bomb, have cooled the ardor of Stalin as a potential military conqueror of the world. He may, and probably will, encourage his satellites in Asia to go on dying in the jungle or in the hills, but their ardor for sacrifice must be chilled by the aloofness of Russia’s military might. Unless all human calculations are wrong the threat of a third war is definitely receding.

An Even Hotter Cold War

Then will Russia come to terms with the West? Are we to find a formula whereby the Bear, the Lion and the Eagle will lie down together in perfect amity? Can Communism and Capitalism agree there is room in the world for both and that a little friendly rivalry between competing ideologies will not really do either any harm?

I would answer that question by quoting the British Communist news-* paper Daily Worker on the day that President Truman, after his visit to General MacArthur, enumerated a four-clause policy of peaceful co-operation between Russia and the West:

In the most aggressive and threatening attack on the Soviet Union he has yet made. President Truman last night declared his intention of further intensifying U. S. world-wide war preparations. In phrases of almost Hitlerian hysteria he demanded that the Soviet Union give positive proof of its intention to work for peace. After gloating on the way the United States military juggernaut had smashed through Korea ...

Well, there, I think, you have the answer. Robbed of any reasonable chance of military conquest Stalin is almost certain to call for a fierce intensification of the ideological war. The policy of agitation will take on a new and venomous strength not only among the backward areas of Asia but in the very citadels of Western democracy.

Fifth Columns Without Bugles

Strikes will be fomented, the mind of the workers will be poisoned not only toward their employers but toward their responsible trade union

And in all of our universities the natural tendency of the educationist to despise* the prizes of capitalism which are beyond his grasp will affect the minds of the young and send many of them as Communist agitators into a wicked world.

By every device that can be used Russia will endeavor to undermine the morale and the economic stability of the West while chanting the praises of peace on earth. The cold war will go on, intensified, embittered, unscrupulous. Nor will the West win that war by merely standing on the defensive any mon! than it would have defeated North Korea by digging itself in.

Capitalism as the economic expression of individualism and human freedom is facing the fiercest onslaught of its existence. Nor is if a battle where the enemy can be identified by his uniform The allies of Marxism are myriad and the difficulty is that so many are unconscious of the part they are playing.

This is a 100-years war and we are entering on the final stages. The fifth columns are on the move, even if we hear no bugles nor the sound of marching feet upon the road, it