[With the collapse of Labour in the election of 1932, a young man of socialist upbringing, Malcolm Muggeridge, ‘resolved to go where I thought a new age was coming to pass; to Moscow and the future of mankind.’ As the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, his idea was to establish himself in the worker’s paradise, bring over his entire family, and then sever his connection from the bourgeois life of the West. Eight months later he left Russia in a state of utter disillusionment. He felt euphoric at the prospect of leaving Russia, and of informing Western readers about the true nature of the Soviet regime. The euphoria passed long before he had to deal with the personal and professional consequences of his defection, one being that the few papers that would accept his articles were on the far right. On his way home he met his family in Switzerland where they took an extended vacation.]
Apart from Proust, my mind was endlessly preoccupied with thoughts of the Soviet regime. I felt furious about the whole experience, as though I had been personally cheated, and poured out my righteous indignation and hurt vanity in a series of articles as bitter and satirical as I knew how to make them. They probably struck most readers as being just angry. Clearly, I could not offer them to The Guardian, and so, going to the other extreme, I sent them to the old Morning Post, long since extinct, but in its day a reputable Tory newspaper of the extreme Right. The editor accepted five of them, rejecting two—the one about Red Imperialism, and another giving an account of how foreign journalists working in the USSR are induced to toe the Party Line. . .
We spent in all some three months in Rossinière, during which time I finished a book about my experiences in the USSR, later published as Winter in Moscow. As with the Morning Post articles, I wrote in a mood of anger, which I find rather absurd now; not so much because the anger was, in itself, unjustified, as because getting angry about human affairs is as ridiculous as losing one’s temper when an air flight is delayed, or in a traffic jam. The only parts of the book I find tolerable are the humorous passages; laughter being a great prophylactic which disinfects anger as it does lechery and all other passions. When Winter in Moscow came out, it enjoyed a certain vogue among old Moscow hands like Chip Bohlen, Bill Stoneman and William Henry Chamberlin, who prided themselves on having a glossary of the real people behind my fictitious names. Cholerton said of it that it was the great anti-cant Bible of the USSR, which pleased me very much, but in actual fact it achieved nothing in the way of clearing up misconceptions and propaganda lies; people continued to regard as an open question whether there was forced labour in the USSR, and whether the confessions of the Old Bolsheviks to have worked for the British Secret Service, etc., were genuine. Shaw’s picture of Stalin as the Good Fabian, and Dr Hewlett Johnson’s of him as building the Kingdom of Christ, continued to carry more conviction than mine of a bloodthirsty tyrant of unusual ferocity even by Russian standards. People, after all, believe lies, not because they are plausibly presented, but because they want to believe them. So, their credulity is unshakeable.
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