In December 1946 I was elected to attend a conference of representatives of the Communist Parties of the British Empire to be held in London, England, at the end of February 1947. Learning that the Communist Party of Great Britain would be holding its 19th Convention during the same month I arranged to arrive in Britain early enough to attend it also.
My experiences during that trip impressed me deeply. The changes in Britain since I was last there are striking--particularly in the political consciousness and temper of the people.
I was surprised at the large number of Canadians who have settled in the British Isles since the war. It is impossible to list the names of the dozens of comrades who contacted me, but from the day after I landed until two days before I went aboard ship for my return to Canada I was in receipt of personal visits, calls or letters from comrades whom I have known in Canada but who are now active in the movement in the old country.
During the convention of the British Communist Party I met representatives of Labor movements and governments from literally every corner of Europe (1). While the convention in general emphasized the profound changes which are taking place in the British Isles, the speeches of the fraternal delegates from the Continent brought a new and revealing picture of developments in the New Democracies. The striking information, and even more the new spirit that they expressed, emphasized the fact that the old Europe of the 1930’s, with its evils, is gone; and the popular strength and confidence which found reflection in their speeches testified that it can never be restored.
It became evident that we in Canada need more first hand information about the radical changes taking place in Europe and the means by which they are being brought about. I decided to visit some of the New Democracies. My selection of France, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia as the countries to be visited was determined in the main by the exigencies of the time, travelling facilities, especially the time required to secure visas, permits from the military control to cross the occupied territories, and the need to visit those countries from which I could get a balanced picture of the different types and stages of the developing New Democracy which is spreading across the Continent.(2)
Britain, France, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia are the four countries which, combined, illustrate all the stages of development and all the main problems of Europe’ New Democracies. In Britain and France the protagonists of the policies and relationships such as led up to the second world war are still strong and hoping to stage a comeback. In Czechoslovakia there is no public advocacy of a revision of prewar policies and relationships, and the country is the most advanced in all Europe towards complete economic recovery. But, and here is a significant feature of Czechoslovakia’s politics, interests which want prewar relationships restored are still strong. Their inability to regain their previous dominant influence has reflected in a striking way the “coming together,” as it were, of national and democratic popular interests during the war--the growing recognition that today the fight for national freedom and the fight for social progress are inseparable facets of democracy! Yugoslavia, with its infections and stimulation national enthusiasm despite the awful devastation wrought by the war, provides the most vivid and complete illustration of the profoundly revolutionary character of the war of peoples’ liberation. Yugoslavia illustrates, also, the relationship between the aims of Europe’s New Democracies and the economic prospect of Canada. Thus, while this booklet is not a full description of the conditions in all parts of Europe it does describe the main changes, the purposeful aims and the main problems, which characterize all the New Democracies.
We Canadians, every one of us, will have to concern ourselves increasingly with the developments in Britain and the Empire and in the New Democracies, because those developments are going to change the world during the next decade. In addition there is the fact that nearly all of us have, either directly by birth or indirectly by ancestry, ties of sentiment with the British Isles, France, or with the countries of Central, Eastern, or Southeastern Europe.
The lesson I learned from what I saw in Britain and Europe was that we can have “One World” provided we can arouse democratic people to defend the rights of other peoples to change the part of the world in which they live. When we recognize that we recognize also that the best way to help Canada is to help the peoples of the New Democracies make good the awful devastation of the war, because as Marshal Tito pointed out to me in Belgrade, a well fed, prosperous and economically advancing Europe is an indispensable element for lasting world peace.
1. I have dealt with the lessons of the Empire Conference separately. “The British Empire in the Post-War World,” National Affairs Monthly, April and June 1947.
2. I was also able to make a short visit to Hungary. Because of the distinctive character of the developments in that country, they will be dealt with in a separate pamphlet.