We had a good pre-show discussion with David Pinner at Getti on Wednesday night, and he pricked interest with comments that a few decades ago would have got people fairly worked up — about Communists infiltrating the the Labour Party in the 1970s, about him not being able to produce his play on Stalin at the National, Teddy Bear’s Picnic, because of its line where Stalin quotes Lenin stating that getting rid of a huge portion of the population might be necessary for the greater good of the country.
Yet Pinner was equally harsh on Churchill and very complimentary about Clement Attlee. At the Potsdam Conference, Churchill sought to sow mistrust between Truman and Stalin and he succeeded in that and little else (though he assumed he would be credited for getting Stalin to smoke cigars). Few realise that in July 1945, just before the Potsdam Conference, Churchill was considering Operation Unthinkable, a full-scale attempt by British, American and German — yes, German — troops to push the Soviets out of Poland and Eastern Europe. He was terrified about the start of World War III. Did he help prevent it or make the Cold War a fair bit hotter than it need have been?