In the previous post I referred to the great turn in US foreign policy engineered by President Truman in 1947-9. That stance was noble and historically far-sighted, and it remains one of the great achievements of the British Left to have encouraged and joined with Truman in those Cold War policies. In my book Anti-Totalitarianism I sketched the thinking of Clement Attlee and his Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin in forming that alliance, and I also referred to those within the Labour Party who dissented from Bevin's policies.
There were in fact remarkably few who opposed Bevin, at least after Stalin had demonstrated beyond any possible doubt the brutal and expansionist character of Soviet tyranny. But among them was the far-Left MP Konni Zilliacus; he was expelled from the Party but reinstated a few years later. He served thereafter as MP for Manchester Gorton and was a powerful inspiration for a small but persistent pro-Soviet tendency in Labour politics. Of Zilliacus and his supporters, George Orwell wrote in 1947 (in Tribune, 17 January; reproduced in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 4: In Front of Your Nose, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, 1968, p. 229):
Does [Zilliacus] imagine that he and the little group who think like him ought to be specially exempted from criticism? Or is he under the impression that he can frighten me into silence? Let him be sure that I shall continue my efforts to counter totalitarian propaganda in this country. On the other hand, if at any time he changes his views and becomes once again a supporter of democracy, I shall probably be one of the first to notice it, and certainly I shall be very ready to acknowledge it.
There are more details of these debates in my book, in which I express hostility to Zilliacus and all he stood for (in particular his support for the Communist putsch in Czechoslovakia in 1948). I've received today an email from a reader, Mimi Zilliacus, taking issue with my judgements. I'm most grateful to Ms Zilliacus for writing and for giving me permission to publish her comments. She writes:
Konni was in fact my grandfather, by direct line, my father's father. He was most definitely intelligent in his professional and political life. Perhaps you have not read all of what he wrote. He was not a Communist, he was trying to avoid another world war. Remember that he had been alive to see first hand the beginings of two world wars and worked for the League of Nations before he was elected a MP. He saw that the formation of NATO would probably lead to another war, and while it was "cold" the world was divided by that power struggle. A world police force is communist talk? What are the Security Council and the UN peace keeping troops? He was also good friends with people like HG Wells.
I cannot say what he was like in his personal life because he died [in 1967] many years before I was born but I think you have misinterpreted him.