LONDON LETTER

Birthday of a Red God

BEVERLEY BAXTER February 1 1950
LONDON LETTER

Birthday of a Red God

BEVERLEY BAXTER February 1 1950

Birthday of a Red God

LONDON LETTER

BEVERLEY BAXTER

A GROUP of German editors recently came to Britain on a sponsored comprehensive tour and it was decided that they should be given a luncheon in a private room of the House of Commons.

A member of each of the three British political parties, plus one independent, were appointed to act as hosts. The Communist Party, which numbers two, was not asked to take part. Probably because of my newspaper affiliations I was designated as the Conservative representative.

I had on my right a young Hamburg editor who combines dramatic criticism with his executive duties. He had been a prisoner in Russia and we discussed the colossal riddle of the Bear that walks like a Man.

“The people are kindly,” he said. “The authorities are cruel. I think there is hope in the good humor of the Russian peoplè. A villager said to me: ‘Under Communism the

Russian worker has bread. Under Capitalism the worker has bread—and butter. I prefer bread with butter.’ Yes, I have hope in them.” Then we fell inevitably to a discussion of Germany’s future. He assured me that Germany is finished with war for ever; Germany knows that she has no future as a nation except as a partner with the West; Germany wants to learn and practice democracy; Germany wishes to be free like the British; Germany . .

“What will happen,” 1 asked, “if another strong man appears in about three years time?”

He raised his hands in protest and then dropped them limply on the table as if they had become suddenly boneless. It was as though the Strong Man had suddenly appeared at the doorway and asked what they were doing in such a place.

At the end of the luncheon we all made the proper speeches, and none the less sincere because they were conventional. Germany and Britain were natural friends, they never should have Continued on page 39

Continued On page 39

Birthday of a Red God

Continued from page 16

fought against each other, now we would be guardians of the peace, brothers in the arts and guardians of Western Democracy You can fill in the rest without much effort.

Nor was the scene lacking in the element of emotion. We who have not been conquered or occupied by a foreign foe for endless centuries have no conception of the toll that it takes from the human spirit. These Germans were courteous, friendly and intelligent but their eyes are dead. A smile that does not reach the eyes is nothing but a contortion of the features. Hitler and the occupation made living corpses out of the German people. The danger is that another strong man will appear and be their resurrection.

It was not long after that luncheon that M. Stalin celebrated his 70th birthday. Now let it be admitted at once that Stalin is a man of courage, self-discipline and imagination with a genius for organization.

I remember vividly the time Beaverbrook returned from his flying visit to Moscow when the Germans were almost at the gates of the city.

Beaverbrook went at the head of a

large Whitehall mission but characteristically, he left them kicking their heels at their hotel and did business direct with Stalin. This surprised and delighted the Russian leader. He was a dictator who took his own decisions and had a temperamental distrust of all committees.

Neither Stalin nor Beaverbrook spoke the other’s language, but that did not matter. They had an interpreter present, but dictators understand each other by instinct.

“You have too great a regard for human life in the West,” said Stalin. Already he was planning to stretch the Russo-German line to breaking point and then, by mass assaults at given points (losing three men to the Germans’ one), force the Germans to fall back and establish another line.

The commission that accompanied Beaverbrook included experts extremely competent at their jobs; they expected to be in Moscow for at least a month working out the details. Instead it was done in a couple of days by two men with much in common, including the fact that they were born in the same year.

“Stalin’s a tough fellow’,” Beaverbrook said admiringly when he came

“That English lord is a tough fel-

low,” said Stalin to a diplomat who saw him after the Germans had started their retreat from Moscow.

That is a picture of Stalin in the war—a rugged, ruthless, fearless realist. But if it is a true picture then what were his thoughts when Russia was organized for the most sycophantic, lunatic tribute ever made to any human being on his 70th birthday?

This man was no Romanoff with generations of flattery in his blood. This man was no maniac like Hitler who drank deep draughts of adulation and called for more, more, more. This man was not even a Mussolini who played the buffoon dictator to please the childlike minds of the Italian people.

Then if he is none of these things who and what is he? In Britain we have a remarkable annual publication called “Who’s Who” which is not so much concerned with respectability (although it is very partial to peers) as it is with determining whether a person is of interest. Thus, in spite of some caustic comment, it included Hitler, Goering and Mussolini in its annual editions throughout the war, giving us their pedigree, age, relaxations and even their telephone numbers in case you felt like calling them up.

In the current issue of “Who’s Who,” sandwiched between Lord Stalbridge and Colonel Stallard I find the entry: STALIN—Generalissimo Joseph Vissarionovich. He was born in Tiflis, his father being Vissarion Djugashvilli, cobbler. His wife died in 1932 and there are two children.

Expelled, and Proud of It

So fai, except in the difference of the names, the description might fit any self-made man who rose to an eminence where he could not be left out of books of record. Naturally, when a man is selected for inclusion in “Who’s Who,” he carefully selects those vital facts in his life which are creditable and omits the others. For example you never read, “Expelled from Eton” or “Sent down from Cambridge.”

But that is where Stalin is different. When the Russian Embassy in London supplied “Who’s Who” with essential data this item was included: Educated Tiflis Theological School 1894-99. (Expelled for political activity.)

With engaging candor the record then states that between 1902-1913 Stalin was arrested and escaped five times. It is quite true that these arrests were for acts of violence in a political cause and therefore acquire a certain respectability, but there is still a refreshing candor about it all.

But how does it deal with his part in the great October Revolution of 1917? Naturally he makes no mention of the fact that it was Kerensky and his Liberals (Russian variety) who made the revolution in April of that year and overthrew the Czar. It might cause people to remember that if Kerensky had not made the brave mistake of keeping Russia in the war the Communist Revolution would probably never have happened.

However, even Stalin could hardly leave out Lenin, even if Trotsky’s charge was true that Stalin had the little man murdered. So there appears this item: 1917—Edited Pravda and

with Lenin led the October Revolution.

The rest consists of honors heaped upon honors. In case you wish to write to him “Who’s Who” gives his address as The Moscow, U.S.S.R. It does not say what street, but no doubt the postmen know where

Whether we believe that Stalin’s rise is good or bad for humanity no one

can deny its full measure of human achievement. He kept his course through discouragement, violence, intrigue and victory. And eventually this gambler with death reached the allotted span of 70 years.

Never in the history of human adulation have such tributes been paid to any man as on this anniversary.

The musician Prokofiev declared: Stalin1 Everything is included in that tremendous name. The party, the country, love, immortality—everything.

This set a pretty high standard but the poets were not to be outdone by a musician. Here is one of their eulogies: Stalin is the wisdom of the ages. Stalin is the youth of the Earth.

You might have thought that this would have kept the other poets quiet, but they were taking no chances. Just listen to this experiment in ecstasy: Great Stalin,

Who gave life to men,

Who made the earth fertile Who gives blossom to the spring.

The unfortunate novelists, realizing that they had been done in by a musician and the poets, merely said that all inspiration, style and truth came to them through Stalin. One wonders how Tolstoy, Turgenev and

Chekov contrived to write their classics before Stalin was known to them even by name.

The scientists did their best by stating that Stalin was their Supreme Teacher and bowed their heads before his “majestic plans for changing nature.”

Nor did this abasement of human dignity take place only in Russia. In the Soviet Zone of Berlin there was a torchlight procession bigger and better than anything ever put on for Hitler. At a great gathering in the temporary opera house the principal speech was made by Herr Rau, Minister for Planning in the parliament of the zone.

Treacle Tart and Banana

This was his peroration: Stalin is

the sanctuary of peace, the greatest man of the century, the glory of the century, a towering philosopher, the priceless never - to - be - repeated, the unique and greatest man.

The mere setting down of these words makes me feel as if I am on an ocean liner in a rough sea having just eaten a very fat pork chop, a huge treacle tart and an overripe banana. That

men of ability should crawl on their bellies and deify a human being beyond the stature of God is something that fills me with disgust and almost with despair.

I remember once how Churchill dealt with a man at a public function who praised him somewhat beyond the borders of normal public tribute. “If these things be true of any man,” said Churchill, “then they should never be said while he is alive.”

The most disturbing feature of the Russian tragi-comedy is that none of these sycophants knows anything at all about Stalin. He does not walk the streets, debate in parliament, or mix with the men and women of his day. Once a year he stands at Lenin’s tomb while the tanks rattle by and massed battalions march past. Occasionally from the dark interior of the imperial box at the Moscow Opera he gives the audience a glimpse of his nose or his mustache, but this hardly requires genius. He does not travel through his country to shed the glory of his countenance upon his people.

He is a legend built up by all the artifice of modern propaganda, a legend based upon the superstition of the Russian people who called the Czar “Little Father” when propaganda was in its infancy.

Yet if it out-Hitlers Hitler and outdoes Napoleon, it is all in the same tradition. When I was in Rome in January 1939 with Neville Chamberlain 1 watched Mussolini on a platform take the march past of the facisti youth while the crowds chanted a sort of Dervish chorus of “Doo-chie, Doochie, Doo-chie, Doo-chie” in a rhythm of even beats.

Like Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler, the Duce was short of stature so he had a hidden step to stand on which gave him an extra eight inches. As he had a trick of thrusting his jaw forward by at least two inches, he looked to the crowds like an avenging Thor instead of like a tubby little waiter from a cheap café in Soho.

When will mankind learn that, to deify one among their number is to destroy both God and themselves? So fascinated were the French by their little emperor that they bled nnd died in such numbers that France went into a decline from which she has never really recovered. The Hitler legend sent 20 millions to tin ir death and brought the civilized world to the brink of collapse.

A Remote and False God

Thank heaven we do things differently in the English-speaking nations. In Canada you constantly returned Mr. Mackenzie King to power but, if my memory is correct, you did not tell him that he was greater than Caesar. As a matter of fact I can rememlw-r occasional comments which suggested that Mr. King was subject to human frailties even as you and I.

I have not heard that the Australians have said Mr. Menzies is the Fount of All Wisdom, or that the New Zealanders have cried that Mr. Holland outshines the sun, or that the South Africans have proclaimed Dr. Malan the source of genius and wisdom for mankind.

As for the British they promptly threw out Churchill ns noon as they got a chance. I do not applaud that action but it was in the great tradition of our race.

Some day Stalin may decide on war.

If that happens then the crime will not lwhis alone. It will be shared by ail those who abased themselves bi-fore him and raised a false god who was remote from the wise counsel of ordinary men. ft