"Political pilgrims" is what Paul Hollander calls those who travel to various communist gulags and return with glowing reports about the wonderful conditions they found there. These pilgrims seem to be entirely cut off from reality; they never seem to have heard of such people as Andrei Sakharov, Anatoly Shcharansky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In fact, these travellers seem to be living on a different planet.
Lenin called them "useful idiots"—people who are very useful in the cause of establishing a slave society, but eventually would be cast aside. The process of brainwashing naïve visitors by means of guided tours and plenty of smiles, handshakes, vodka and banquets has been going on ever since Lenin established the first systematic prison society in this century. No one category of people, be they clergymen or trade unionists, have been immune to the lies of the propagandists.
The April/May issue of the Courier, newsletter of the Letter Carrier's Union of Canada, published a report by Bob Hamilton, the union's secretary/treasurer, on his trip to Moscow and other Russian cities. Hamilton was bowled over by the kindness he encountered and sounded envious of the excellent working conditions experienced by his fellow letter carriers in the Soviet Union. A Moscow post office, he reported, was made attractive by plants, and comfortable seating areas as well as a room equipped with beds were available for rest breaks.
Hamilton concludes his enthusiastic report (which, by the way, makes no mention of such details as housing, wage levels, freedom of expression and association) as follows:
We travelled a few thousand miles in Russia and thoroughly enjoyed it. The people are very hospitable, appear to be happy with the system under which they live and work, expressed hope that we would return to Canada with the assurance that they and the rest of the world wanted peace. We drank a toast to that.
What can one say? Malcolm Muggeridge, while stationed in Moscow in the 1930s, made some scathing observations that are as valid today as they were then. And the likes of brother Hamilton have had the benefit of a half-century of murder and oppression to open their eyes. Muggeridge would no doubt marvel at their gullibility as he did at that of such eminents as Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Julian Huxley, Harold Laski, and others right "down to the poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and millionaires, and drivelling dons; all utterly convinced that, under the aegis of the great Stalin, a new dawn was breaking in which the human race would at last be united in liberty, equality and fraternity forevermore." According to Muggeridge,
They are unquestionably one of the wonders of the age, and I shall treasure . . . the spectacle of them travelling with radiant optimism through a famished countryside, wandering in happy bands about squalid, over-crowded towns, listening with unshakeable faith to the fatuous patter of carefully trained and indoctrinated guides, repeating like school-children a multiplication table, the bogus statistics and mindless slogans endlessly intoned to them.
How true. How sad.