Greatness

Arthur Marwick

  • Attlee by Kenneth Harris
    Weidenfeld, 630 pp, £14.95, September 1982, ISBN 0 297 77993 1

What, we may ask, is greatness anyway? Who in the West this century has shown it? Does it only flourish when nurtured by the ecstatic opiates of war? Greatness, in this context, is what people recognise as greatness: manifest success on a national rather than a purely partisan scale. Losing both wars hasn’t helped Germany’s candidates: Clemenceau eclipses both Hindenburg and Ludendorff. De Gaulle has it, but Léon Blum, holding too long to his prissy belief that he couldn’t take office till the moment came when society was ready to leap into socialism, does not. Churchill, obviously, needed the war; perhaps Roosevelt did not, despite the fact that his economic policies were rescued only by that same war – as Kitchener was a magnificent poster, so Roosevelt was a magnificent voice.

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