I am writing in response to the attack on my late father, Cyril Claydon, by Francis Dixon in the letters page last week (April 1).
Mr Dixon objects to the description in a Sussex Express article of Cyril as a campaigner for peace and social justice in view of his involvement with the Communist Party at a time when Stalin’s purges and atrocities were already well known. In fact, my father never supported atrocities of any sort, or purges – nor did he support “tyranny and persecution” in Eastern Europe or elsewhere. The idea of such things would have caused him utter horror.
Did these things happen? Yes – we now know there were many terrible acts, not least by Stalin. Whether tyranny was as widespread as Mr Dixon suggests, I do not know.
Was the evil well known? Not as well known as your correspondent thinks – because thousands of UK citizens whose politics were on the Left refused to believe the reports, which they considered to be lies generated by the West to shore up capitalism. People wanted to believe that the Soviet Union was a shining example of Marxist-Leninist principles in action: a fairer and more equal society where wealth was shared. Like-minded people reinforced each others’ beliefs. Among other factors were the rigours of the 1930s’ Depression and concern about the rise of Hitler.
In 1956, Premier Khrushchev denounced Stalin. Communists world-wide were horrified and many found these statements hard or impossible to believe.
In the 1980s, when Perestroika occurred, with the downing of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union, the truth that there had indeed been atrocities could no longer be hidden, and a whole generation of Communists and left wing sympathisers in the UK and the rest of the world, including some distinguished names, had to face the agonising truth that they had been misguided. Were they naïve? Perhaps… looked at through the prism of the 21st century.
It would be an amazing world if we all had perfect hindsight!
My father continued to work towards a better society here in Britain.
He never advocated the use of violence to achieve that aim. He endeavoured to convince others that peace is preferable to war and protested against other atrocities, of which there have been so many, including the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the pointless and destructive invasion of Iraq, which millions around the world marched in protest against.
Of course this in no way exonerates evil generated in the Soviet Union, which betrayed the principles of Marx and Engels.
But do we imply that those who triggered the above events or supported them are equivalent to “Nazis?” Do we call Tony Blair a “Nazi?” We do not.
Cyril was unassuming and never strident in expressing his views. He was keen to discuss with anyone. No-one who knew him doubted his integrity – and he was respected for his objectivity and accuracy as a reporter. He recently passed courageously through the end stages of Parkinson’s Disease complicated by strokes.
He retained his quirky sense of humour and his charm to the end. The day before Cyril’s funeral, an email from Norman Baker MP stated: “He was a good man.” A much more accurate description than that of your correspondent.