Arthur Ransome and Communism

Another English writer who was in bed with the Bolsheviks? Literally, in the case of Arthur Ransome. He was a journalist in Moscow in the early 20th century, and his lover was Trotsky’s press secretary. A new biography of Ransome (best known for his children’s books such as Swallows and Amazons) focusses on the time he spent reporting in Russia in the early 20th century and his links with the Bolsheviks:

Between 1917 and 1924, as Russian correspondent for the Daily News and Manchester Guardian, he was an uncritical apologist for the Bolshevik regime, with unique access to the revolutionary leaders. As the Red Army engaged with an Allied invasion of Russia, Ransome was conducting a love affair with Evgenia Shelepina, private secretary to Leon Trotsky, then Soviet Commissar for War. As the intimate friend of Karl Radek, the Bolshevik Chief of Propaganda, he denied the Red Terror and compared Lenin to Oliver Cromwell. No English journalist was considered more controversial, or more damaging to British security. At Whitehall, he was accused of being the paid agent of a hostile power and only narrowly escaped prosecution for treason.

I caught the author of The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome, Roland Chambers, on Radio 4’s Open Book this afternoon. It’s well worth a listen again – especially the entertaining tail of Ransome leaving Russia for Sweden in a Bolshevik’s uniform carrying a diplomatic passport and millions or roubles in a satchel. I loved Swallows & Amazons when I was younger; quite cool to think that it was hiding revolutionary ideas…

Update: I posted this story to Metafilter, and there’s some interesting discussion there in the comments.

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