[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. The whole experience had been a nightmare, the purge trials and the government created famine in the Ukraine already well under way. The evening before he left Moscow, however, Oumansky, head of the Press Department of the Soviet Foreign Office, and Nehman, one of the press censors, invited him to a farewell dinner—surprising since he had proved himself, in the regime’s terms, unreliable and unhelpful. It was an enjoyable affair and after he left them 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. A far greater trial was going through life as a disappointed idealist. The passage below, however, is a moving record of that short-lived euphoria.]
It was time for me to go. Oumansky and Nehman came to the door to see me off, as the Webbs and the two Scottish maids had at Passfield. As I walked unsteadily away, I could hear Oumansky say: ‘Good-bye and bonne chance!’ I shouted back over my shoulder. Before returning to my hotel I took a few turns round Red Square. The place was deserted except for the soldiers with fixed bayonets outside Lenin’s tomb. I walked briskly; breathing in the icy air cleared my head. Suddenly, I thought I noticed a change in the wind that was blowing against my face. It seemed to be touched with warmth and fragrance, as though spring was already beginning. An extraordinary feeling of happiness welled up in me. Soon the river would thaw, the earth be green again. Thus it had happened a million times before, thus it would happen a million times again. Nothing could prevent it—the sudden, unexpected coming of spring. I filled my lungs ravenously.
I left the USSR via Riga, then the capital of an independent Latvia... There were not many passengers on the train to Riga. As we approached the Latvian-Soviet frontier, all of us with one accord went into the corridor to stare at the soldiers in their long grey great-coats, red stars on their caps, guarding it. Then, when we were safely in Latvian territory, we all began spontaneously to laugh and shout and shake our fists at the sentries. We were out, we were free. It was one of the strangest demonstrations of the kind I have ever been involved in...
The buffet at Riga Station seemed momentarily like paradise; the crisp rolls and butter, the piles of fruit, the luscious cheeses and succulent ham—who could ever believe in such plenty? My euphoria soon passed. Man cannot live by buffets alone, and the angels in this paradise were puffy, pasty men carrying briefcases instead of harps, with their beatitudes securely tucked away in wallets in their hip-pockets. On my way to Berlin, where I proposed stopping off for two days, my spirits steadily fell. I was, I felt, returning on my tracks; going deeper and deeper back into the bourgeois world I thought I had discarded for ever. Its very affluence made it more abhorrent; I was a prodigal son puking over his fatted calf.
Click HERE to reach
the associated topic for this webpage.
For more topics click HERE.