Obituary: Margot Walmsley

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The Independent Online
May I correct Patrick Cosgrave's obituary of Margot Walmsley [2 August]? writes Lord Kennet. Melvin Lasky was not the founding senior editor of Encounter: that was Irving Kristol, who is, I think, still going strong in New York.

The obituary also repeats the story of the surprise felt by many when they found out in the mid-Sixties that Encounter was funded by the CIA. I have never understood this. Encounter was set up and funded by an organisation called the Congress for Cultural Freedom, as Cosgrave rightly says. The CCF set out to counteract Marxism among the French intellectuals (Arthur Koestler has written a good account of its early life). But CCF soon went wider than that, and set up similar monthlies in Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Australia. Encounter was always the most successful.

That this was a chain operation backed by American money was obvious to all, and it should have been obvious to all that the sort of money for that sort of operation, even in the United States, does not come from individuals. (Though there was an engaging rich man in the US called Junkie Fleischmann who acted as a sort of cut-out.)

I was well aware of the "CIA" funding, and so were many others who wrote in Encounter in its early days. We understood and approved the objectivity and liberalism which the founders knew was necessary to dent continental Marxism. So we took advantage of that: forward-looking and internationalist highbrow mags did not grow on trees then (or now).

We were always watching to see how far left we could go without being cut off. Under Kristol there was, I found, no limit: I attacked the fall- out from US nuclear weapon tests, defended democratic socialism and the welfare state, and so on and so on. I thought: so long as I can write what I like, and it publishes nothing vile by anyone else, who cares? But under Laski, a more blinkered anti-Communism took hold, and he did try to rein us in, so after a bit of a struggle I stopped writing for it.

I don't know why there was this sudden outcry in 1965-66. Bertrand Russell, after all, had been one of the founders of the CCF.

None of this ever touched Margot Walmsley who, and whose parties, were indeed darling.