History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1941-1951 - Vol. 4

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

17
ATTITUDES TO PROFESSIONAL
WORKERS AND
INTELLECTUALS

Civil servants were not the only victims of the government’s anti-communist drive. Among those who lost their jobs were 17 scientists. In April 1948, Conservative MP Sir Waldron Smithers asked Attlee what action was to be taken against J.B.S. Haldane, who was working on two government scientific committees. In reply, Attlee claimed that Haldane was involved purely in medical research. However, by 1950, Haldane was to be removed from any government work.1

It was at a time when communists in professional work of all kinds were facing discrimination. Though this never rose to anything like the level of that in the USA, it had a noticeable impact. This was particularly the case among school teachers when it was realised that some local councils were attempting to introduce ‘political tests’. Thus Middlesex County Council was to reject the appointment of Max Morris as a headteacher solely on the grounds that he was a communist. In universities it was well known that many failed to get promoted because of their communist views.

Ever since the war ended, communists in the various professional and specialist groups – scientists, historians, writers, musicians, and so on – had been actively engaged in debates about the way forward. In the autumn of 1946, a series of lectures had been organised by the London District of the Party on ‘The Communist Answer to the Challenge of Our Time’. These were held on Sundays at the Beaver Hall which was packed out – indeed, some of the lectures had to be relayed to overflow meetings in adjoining halls.

Among those who participated was the scientist J.D. Bernal who showed how new scientific discoveries and developments offered great

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