BRACERS Record Detail
To access the original letter, email the Ready Division.
Attached to letter from Spender to BR, 14 January 1968; see record 132177.
This article, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/we-need-to-launch-a-new-defence-of-freedom-of-speech-and-debate-8g90rtdwp, claims that BR signed a letter with many others “49 years ago”, which is impossible. What
The Times article is by Ruth Smeeth, former Labour MP and now head of Index on Censorship. Her article linked below describes the founding of the organization. Wikipedia has more:
“The original inspiration for Index on Censorship came from two Soviet dissidents, Pavel Litvinov, grandson of the former Soviet Foreign Minister, Maxim Litvinov, and Larisa Bogoraz, the former wife of the writer, Yuli Daniel, who had written to The Times in 1968 calling for international condemnation of the rigged trial of two young writers and their typists on charges of 'anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda'. (One of the writers, Yuri Galanskov, died in a camp in 1972).
“Spender organised a telegram of support and sympathy from 16 British and US public intellectuals, including W.H. Auden, A.J. Ayer, Yehudi Menuhin, J. B. Priestley, Paul Scofield, Henry Moore, Bertrand Russell and Igor Stravinsky, among others. In reply Litvinov suggested, in a letter later published in Index's first issue, for some form of publication "to provide information to world public opinion about the real state of affairs in the USSR". [BR was personally acquainted with nearly all of them.]
In this, Wikipedia is echoing Spender’s statement in the first issue of Index on Censorship. He quotes the text of the telegram that BR signed: “'We, a group of friends representing no organization, support your statement, admire your courage, think of you and will help in any way possible.” (https://journals-sagepub-com.libaccess.lib.mcmaster.ca/doi/pdf/10.1080/03064227208532143)
The telegram is at BRACERS, http://bracers.mcmaster.ca/132178, with the full list of signatories. The date is January 1968. BR also made a BBC statement. A movement was soon formed to take the side of writers who had been oppressed by their governments.
Although it might appear that BR’s name was used after he had died, “49 years ago” is a simple mistake arising out of the early history of the growth of the Index on Censorship movement. BR did sign what Smeet says he signed.
F-4 by name
See B&R C68.03
Record last modified 2020/06/30
Created/last modified by blackwk