Magazine article History Today

Letters

Magazine article History Today

Letters

Article excerpt

Christmas Time

I found the article on the calendar changes of 1752 (`Making Up for Lost Time', December 1999) most interesting and the changes have odd consequences even today. The fiscal year of the Government of Canada still begins on April 1st each year. Apart from the common allusions to April Fools' Day, the date appears to be not only a colonial holdover from the British dates of March 25th up to 1752 and April 5th thereafter, but it is a typical Canadian compromise that falls halfway between the two possibilities.

I was mystified by the reference to communities mistakenly holding Christmas on December 14th as being old Christmas Day. Surely `Old' Christmas Day would fall eleven days after December 25th, on January 5th, which is still celebrated by some Orthodox Churches. The reports of December 14th celebrations could either indicate complete confusion over whether the calendar leapt forward or fell back, or yet another example of exaggeration by the press in order to create a story.

Greg Hancock Cobourg, Canada

Pied Piper

I read Stephen Plaice's review of Frances Stonor Saunders' Who Paid the Piper? with all the more interest having contributed to Preuves, the French equivalent of Encounter and Der Monat, which was run by Francois Bondy, and also funded by the Congress for the Freedom of Culture. I met several times Nicolas Nabokov and Stephen Spender, and I beg to differ with Mr Plaice's somehow blunt and demeaning version of the facts.

Both Ms Saunders and Mr Plaice seem to disregard the fact that some people there and then were sincerely anti-Communist, and that if they were paid `a few measly handouts', they did not `doff their caps to Uncle Sam' for all that. This was a period of fierce Communistic agitprop, and anyone in Paris who dared contest Sartre or Picasso, for instance, was branded a `fascist', and `American lackey'. `Apart from Sartre and Camus, it seems, few could resist the lure of the Yankee dollar', states Mr Plaice with a refreshing naivete. Sartre did indeed resist it, for one good reason: he was the one who had asserted that, `any anti-Communist is a dog'. Should it not be recalled that when Victor Kravchenko revealed for the first time in 1949 the existence of the Stalinist gulags, Sartre and his gang claimed high and loud that he was an American paid liar?

The financing of the three magazines named above was not at all `secret'. That was one of the things that Francois Bondy told me when I first walked into the offices of Preuves. Nobody was forced to write for them or told what he should write, and nobody I know did it for any high bankrolling. We just had far fewer reasons to be anti-American than anti-Communist. When we gave lectures there, our only reward was refreshment and a few canapes afterwards. Would this be Judas' thirty pieces of silver? Or do Ms Saunders and Mr Plaice consider that all anti-Communists were silly dopes?

It would be pretentious of me to pretend probing Stephen Spender's soul, but I definitely would shy away from calling him `gullible' with such high-handedness as Ms Saunders does. And I believe that, whatever the CIA's ambitions and dealings, lesser known people, who contributed to these publications, should also be given some more credit for their sincerity and intelligence.

Gerald Messadie Paris

Mothers Live On

Glen Jeansonne's article on `The Right-Wing Mothers of America' (December 1999) presented a fascinating insight into the mobilisation of anti-Communist and antisemitic women against American involvement in the Second World War. …

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