DEBATE WITH COMMUNIST
Is there freedom in Russia
MGR. Heenan, who on Monday becomes Bishop of Leeds, on Monday last debated with Communist author Mr. Andrew Rothstein the motion: " That the liberty of the citizen is only possible in a Soviet Socialist State."
Mr. Rothstein is a former lecturer of the London School of Slavonic Studies, a small, stolid man, fourteen times a visitor to Russia and son of a leading Russian Bolshevik. Mgr. Heenan is also a sometime visitor to Russia.
Most of the thousand Bolton people who packed the Town Hall, plus an overflow gathering of three hundred, proved to be not so credulous as to accept the motion.
Chairman : Colonel W. A.
Grierson, D.S.O. "Neither a Catholic nor a Communist."
Stewarding of the meeting was by one of each in 24 paired teams : all very friendly and jolly,' at least until Dr. Heenan
shattered the Communist's motion.
Time table for the two speakers was three-quarters of an hour each, plus 15 minutes each to reply, The time was over-spent by the Communist; Dr. Heenan did not find it necessary to " bat out time."
Seats for the debate were allocated on the basis of 350 each to the Catholics and Communists, and some 300 to an agency.
Where the tickets went was the subject of a debate that appeared to be carried on all over Bolton.
The mysterious thousand proved to be what the chairman said they would be: Upholders of the Bolton " tradition of toleration, asking nothing but that truth shall prevail."
Judging by the ovation accorded Dr. Heenan, it prevails like a wind in Bolton.
Introducing his case, Mr. Rothstein said how honoured he felt at being on the same platform with "so distinguished, learned and, 1 believe, so pugnacious an opponent" Even non-Communists in Russia were encouraged, he said. to play their part in local affairs, and he knew of non-Communist deputies.
It was ridiculous to say that one could vote for one candidate only. There were many candidates, but by secret ballot these were eventually reduced to the one chosen to be the
People's representative. And the Soviet citizen was encouraged to criticise his Government.
" The Soviet Union," he claimed. "is the only country which has reached the stage we saw in ancient Greece, where the mass of the ordinary people are freed from the necessity of delegating Government authority to elected persons alone."
Dr. Heenan addressed himself to " Ladies and Gentlemen and Comrades," particularly comrades, and said he was almost afraid to begin to speak because he was about to shatter a dream. He believed that Mr. Rothstein believed all that he said about Russia.
For the Communists, he said, there are not four freedoms. There is only one—freedom from hunger. Fulfilment for him means only that like any other animal he should be led to a trough.
Dr. Heenan reasoned that Soviet Socialism had become the dictatorship of one man in one country and that such a dictatorship is incompatible with liberty.
in a Soviet Socialist State everything must be suppressed which enables citizens to think for themselves or to speak their minds.
Religion in particular is prevented because religion makes a man free and is therefore the enemy of totalitarianism.
Referring to the "liquidation of deviators from the party line," Dr. Heenan read the names of the 1925
Politburo; then he paused, and continued: " May God rest their souls, for only Stalin remains alive. The others were liquidated because they exorcised their liberty to disagree with Josef Stalin."
He added other examples to illustrate Mr. Rothstein's point that there was no need to save for old age in Russia.
" All of us know there is a great danger of war," he said; " that war, if it comes, which God forbid, wilt be the Soviet versus Democracy. When that war is over either this country will be vanquished and under Soviet occupation, or we shall have conquered.
If we conquer, men like Mr. Rothstein will not be liquidated; if Russia wins, people like me will be liquidated. A week today, by the Pope's orders, I am to be consecrated a Bishop; in Russia I shall become an enemy of the people.
"I am the son of a working man. I have spent all my life with the poor and, please God, I shall devote all the energies I have on the poor in Yorkshire."
Then came the replies: On the subject of forced labour Mr. Rothstein said that one of the biggest laughs you could get in Russia was to ask about forced labour; it was a myth.
Tremendous applause broke out when Dr. Heenan said that it would be more interesting to hear that said from the tortured lips of those who are enjoying the fruits of Soviet freedom.
The challenge to the debate was issued by Dr. Heenan during a Bolton mission. when an anonymous letter said he dare not attack Communism outside a church.