12 MAY 1961, Page 16


SIR,—I feel that I owe an apology to readers of the Spectator, since it was I, many years ago, who recruited Mr. Robert Conquest into the Communist Party. The awful results of my impetuous action were made clear to me by the two articles which he contributed to your last number.

I understand that Mr. Conquest is now not only an ex-Communist, but also a student of Soviet Russia. Unfortunately he has followed a familiar pattern and kept, in his regenerate days, some of the worst qualities of the party he has tried to put behind him. He is guilty of arrogant rudeness, double-think and a total inability to accept either the sincerity or the intelligence of those who dis. agree with him. (Lord Russell has been called many things, but never till now, I feel reasonably sure, an intellectual sub-man.) Mr. Tynan and his asso- ciates can look after themselves, but from all that I know of them I would bet quite heavily that they were all as disgusted by the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution as they have been by the American attempt to impose minority rule on Cuba. Certainly no one who condoned the Russian action has the least moral right to point a finger at the, so far, less heinous action of America. But this works both ways. In his article on our reactions to the invasion of Cuba Mr. Conquest has only one reservation to make in his defence of the Allen Dulles policy. 'Political calculation,' he writes, 'may render some of the current US action inadvisable.'

I don't know whether Cuba is now a Communist country or not. But the evidence certainly suggests that most Cubans, however misguidedly, still prefer Castro to the only visible alternative. (It is a measure of Mr. Conquest's political sophistication that he seems to believe that the Cuban rebels would have introduced a democratic regime.) Of course, one may say that our side is right and that, as a consequence of its rectitude, any action is right which it may take to protect itself. This is, indeed, what the Communists say; and if Mr. Conquest agrees with them to this large extent he should say so openly. Failing that, we must apply the same moral standards to the behaviour of both sides and all countries. Hungary, Suez and Cuba were all wicked and murderous actions, in varying degrees. Anyone who has condoned one of them is debarred from making moral condemnations of the others. —Yours faithfully, Brockweir, Nr. Chepstow, Mon


[Mr. Conquest writes: 'Mr. Toynbee's memory (though not only his memory) is at fault. But, in any case, it rather looks as if he were trying to imply that there is bound to be something unworthy and obsessive in the pursuit of truth in areas where it may prove uncomfortable. His substantive point deserves an answer: I hope to give one next week. 'May I take the opportunity to correct a mistake in the last paragraph of my article? As it read, I claimed that the Americans are "defending the inter- ests of everyone who cares about real, rather than national, progress and liberty'; "national" should, of course, have been "notional." '—Editor, Spectator.]