Storm Breaks out over Apology to Soviet Communist Official
Menu JTA Search

Storm Breaks out over Apology to Soviet Communist Official

Download PDF for this date

Boris Ponomarev, head of the Soviet Communist Party’s International Department, caused a political storm here today when he revealed that Peter McCann, Glasgow’s Lord Provost, had apologized to him for angry demonstrations against him last night by Jews and other minorities. Ponomarev, who heads a six-man delegation as guest of the British Labor Party’s International Committee, has been the target of demonstrations since his arrival in Britain last Wednesday.

Nicholas Fairbairn, a Conservative MP who joined in the demonstrations in Glasgow, said the Lord Provost, equivalent to a Lord Mayor, should resign. Leaders of Glasgow’s 14,000-strong Jewish community also joined the dispute.

City Councillor Maurice Toshner said that if McCann had apologized it was “a damned disgrace and an affront to the Jews living in the city.” Mrs. Use Schuster, one of the demonstration’s organizers, said, “I can see why, as Lord Provost of Glasgow he has to be gracious but I don’t see why he had to grovel.”


Ponomarev, before leaving Glasgow, said that the Soviet Union’s Jews wanted to live in no other country and enjoyed the same rights as other nationalities. “There is no Jewish problem in the Soviet Union,” the 71-year-old Politburo member said.

The Soviet visitor was greeted by demonstrators in behalf of Soviet Jewry everywhere he went in England and Scotland. In the House of Commons, Conservatives failed in an attempt to have him ejected from the visitor’s gallery. Labor MP Greville Janner, who is vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and two other Labor MPs tried to hand Ponomarev a letter signed by 40 Labor MPs protesting the imprisonment of Vladimir Slepak after last week’s demonstrations in Moscow.

Prime Minister James Callaghan had earlier said that he has always raised the issue of Soviet emigration whenever he met with Soviet leaders and would do so again Janner said this was the most categorical confirmation a British Prime Minister had ever given about top level intercessions on behalf of Soviet Jews.


Ponomarev’s visit was the subject of an internal Labor Party row. A right-wing group of Labor MPs urged Callaghan to condemn the visit. They said that Ponomarev’s record was as “obnoxious” as that of Alexander Shelepin, the former KGB boss who visited Britain last year.

The Jewish protests caused embarrassment to MP Ian Mikardo, the chairman of the committee which invited Ponomarev. A leading Labor left-winger, he is also a prominent Jewish member of the Labor Zionist movement in Britain.

Ponomarev is one of the top Soviet ideologists and is responsible for relations between the Soviet Communist Party and foreign Communist and Socialist parties. He made his mark under Stalin before World War II when he held a prominent position in the Comintern. He last visited Britain in 1965 and has visited several other Western countries.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund