10 SEPTEMBER 1948, Page 6



ITHINK it desirable to say a word about the " World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace " which has just taken place at Wroclaw (Breslau). Everyone came in their personal capacity ; there were no official delegates (although at the Congress the groups of nationals from each country were styled delegations, and asked to elect repre- sentatives for various purposes, etc.). I was personally invited to be one of the jive Chairmen, or Presidents, of the Congress by M. Boresza, the remarkable Polish publisher who organised the Congress, and was orally assured by him that it would concern itself solely with cultural matters. I know that it is fashionable to say that today all culture has been politicised, but having had such encouraging experience to the contrary with Unesco during the past two and a half years, I accepted his assurance. However, I was wrong. The Con- gress was based on certain political assumptions, and the great majority of the speeches were in support of these assumptions. The small minority who disbelieved in these assumptions was thus forced to take a political position against them. There was no discussion in the ordinary sense of the word, and no setting-up of sub- commissions to thresh out particular problems or practical objectives.

The political assumptions became very clear with the first item on the programme, a long prepared paper by Fadiev, the Russian novelist, and also one of the chairmen of the Congress. The main political theses put forward at the Congress (most of them put forward by Fadiev) were as follows :— That American imperialism is endangering the peace of the world ; that American commercial expansionism is part of that imperialism, and is, through the Marshall Plan and in other ways, threatening tilt national independence of various countries ; that American policy is controlled by a "handful of rich men" (I take the phrase from the first draft of a resolution proposed by the Poles) ; that American culture is vulgar and cheap, and American cultural imperialism is threatening the cultural independence of various countries ; that national sovereignty must be maintained absolutely and in all fields ; that colonialism is part of the commercial and political imperialism of the capitalist world, and must be destroyed ; that Western culture is decadent and corrupt, and was often pro-Axis (or I should say pro-Hitler, for Japan was, I think, not once mentioned) ; that Soviet culture is entirely good and was always anti-Hitler, and in general that the capitalist world has entered on a new phase, which is to be called neo-Fascist (and, of course, by that token is to be fought against). Another thesis about Western, European or Atlantic culture, maintained especially by Ilya Ehrenburg, was that no such thing really exists, as Russian (Eastern) and Western (Atlantic) cul- ture have common roots, and cross-fertilisation between them has always existed. (This, of course, omits all reference to the fact- of immediate relevance, namely, that since 1917 a new type of culture has grown up in the East, which is animated by certain political and social principles, and is at the moment in conflict with Western • culture.) Speeches abounded in denunciation of lynching, of Western Union, of the Marshall Plan, of individual pro-Nazi writers in the pait, of American war-hysteria, of the Thomas Committee and similar U.S. reactions to " un-American activities," of the prosecution of indi- vidual writers such as Howard Fast, of French, Dutch and British behaviour in their colonial empires, of the crowding out of Italian by American films in Italy itself, of Mr. Churchill, etc. In fact, at least half of the speeches were attacks, often violent, of one side on the other, and such attacks, as I pointed out in my own remarks, are hardly likely to promote peace, and may contribute to welt.

Perhaps another third or quarter of the speeches were ex post facto analyses or diagnoses, from the strict Marxist point of view, of past and present tendencies. A Polish delegate, in particular, inflicted on us ninety minutes of such diagnosis. There was, I believe, no reference to the United Nations. The only suggestions that scientific and cultural co-operation would be fostered if the U.S.S.R. were to join F.A.O. and Unesco came from Sir John Boyd Orr and myself.

The "delegations" from Western countries (United Kingdom, United States, France, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Brazil, Argentine- in-exile, Portugal-in-exile and a few others) were in large part com- posed of Communists or Communist sympathisers. The remainder, mostly of left-centre type, were few in number and had come quite unprepared for political speech-making. If they had known what the tone of the Congress was to be, they could have prepared them- selves. When the leader-writer from Pravda, with finger pointed accusingly at the Americans, repeatedly shouted " Where is Howard Fast ? " they might have replied, " Where are Vavilov and many other Russian scientists ? " In response to the charge that American financial interests were " enslaving " the economics and culture of Western European countries and infringing their national inde- pendence, they could have asked some awkward questions about the coup d'etat of last February in Czechoslovakia and other post- war invasions of national independence in the political sphere, and about the Cominform attack on Yugoslavia's independence of action. These have, in point of historical fact, been just as provocative and just as much a menace to peace as any American action.

In response to attacks on liberty of expression in the West, I did raise the point that artists and writers in the U.S.S.R. had to con- form to official aesthetic doctrine, and the further point that the. Russians have in the last few weeks committed themselves to the same terrible mistake as the Nazis, in attempting to divide science—in this case into official " good " Marxist science and opposition " bad" bourgeois science—in the particular case of the excellent Soviet geneticists now suffering attack from Lysenko. But if we had known beforehand that we were in for a fight instead of constructive discussion, a much better case could have been prepared. In response to attacks (mostly well justified) on the Committee on Un- American Activities, we might have asked about the great purges and trials of the '30's in the U.S.S.R., which, after all, were a more drastic method of dealing with " Un-Soviet Activities." We might have asked how many kulaks died or were forcibly deported during the campaign for the collectivisation of agriculture. We might have demanded statistics as to the number of men and women arrested by the Secret Police for their opinions and sentenced with- out trial. Countering remarks about U.S. militarism, we might have asked how many men the U.S.S.R. still has under arms. In response to attacks on the exploitation of the labour of subject peoples, we might have asked about the exploitation of huge numbers of political and other prisoners in the U.S.S.R.

These last three points throw into relief one great advantage possessed by the Eastern cultural attackers—in the West there is publicity, in the East there is not. In the U.S.A. or Britain the trial of a Howard Fast or the detention of people under 18B is public property ; in a police state the majority of arrests are secret and public trials are rare. We just do not know the number of political prisoners in the U.S.S.R. or Poland. Nor, apparently, is it possible to know the size of the Soviet armed forces. The Russians often hold up to admiration—in many respects merited—the self-criticism practised under a Communist regime. At the Congress, however, any " self-criticism " of their own countries was conspicuously absent

from all the speeches from the U.S.S.R. and the satellite countries, in marked contrast to the very considerable amount of it expressed by Western delegates. Perhaps it is not scheduled as a commodity for export ; but its absence was regrettable, and shed an aura of dogmatic self-complacency over the proceedings.

A revealing incident occurred in the Drafting Committee when some of us objected to the phrase that "a handful of rich men in America " were threatening world peace. When protests were voiced against this tendentious over-simplification and against mention- ing specific countries, one member askai whether we would not have specifically mentioned Hider as a threat to peace in 1939. This equation of the aggressive policy of Hitler in 1939 with the "imperialism" of rich Americans in 1948 was all too illuminating, as revealing the determination of the majority of the Congress to place all the blame for the existing threat to peace on American shoulders. Eventually the Polish draft was considerably modified and toned down and enlarged by the incorporation of a good deal of the other draft. In this form it was presented and carried by a large majority, only a few members (later referred to by Ilya Ehrenburg as "idiots and imbeciles ") refusing to sign it. However, it still is tendentious and one-sided in assigning blame for the present state of world tension almost solely to "a handful of self-interested men in America and Europe," and in omitting all reference to many undoubted causes of and predispositions to war. The permanent organisation which it is resolved to set up will presumably become not an organisation for promoting a world culture and civilisation, but, like the Congress itself, a mouthpiece for one of the two opposing cultures of the world.

In conclusion, I would like to quote two remarks made to me by two West European members of the Congress. One said: " I agree with the aims of Russian Communism, and find many of its achieve- ments more admirable than our own, but. I detest its methods." The other's comment was: " I have learnt one important lesson from this Congress ; we are dealing with a new Islam." In Unesco there are three East European People's Democracies—Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary: they have co-operated loyally in the practical projects on which Unesco, as an inter-governmental agency, has decided to embark. It should be possible somehow to effect a similar " recon- ciliation of opposites " in the ideological realm in whiCh intellectuals move ; but I must confess, after this Congress, that I think it will not be easy.