America and the Kremlin
May 29, 1945 — Broadcast over WJZ Radio and NBC’s Blue Network
The other day I saw a reporter-friend just returned from the San Francisco Conference. “Day and night,” he said, “there was only one topic: Soviet Russia. Sometimes I wondered if Russia’s strength or ideas really merit so much attention.”
Of course he knew the answer: They do.
In this war, Russia’s physical strength has been proven in many mighty battles. We know that America’s factories have sent Russia 12,850 combat vehicles, including tanks, approximately 175,000 guns, and unknown quantities of ships. Altogether American industrial workers and taxpayers have sent $8,000,000,000 of lend-lease material to our Russian allies. But even so, Russia’s own great industry, fine generalship, and rich manpower have played a decisive part in the defeat of Germany.
And now the German war machine is destroyed. German industrial strength all but obliterated. This leaves Russia immeasurably the strongest military and industrial power in Europe.
Moreover, Russia has a fresh, untried and powerful army in Asia. Because it is to Soviet Russia’s own national interests to get into the Pacific war, that army is certain to be used against the Japanese before the final kill. When the Japanese are at last beaten to the ground, their army destroyed, and their factories pulverized, Russia will emerge as the strongest military and industrial power also in Asia.
There is no question that Russian physical strength — her iron muscles and machine brawn — make her the world’s No. 2 power — and the military and industrial Titan of Eurasia. And this certainly merits the attention it has received from the men who seek peace in our time at San Francisco.
As for Red Russia’s ideas — well, at this hour every government in central Europe is either controlled directly or indirectly by Moscow-minded rulers: Roumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, are haded by avowed Communists, or Stalin-sympathizers. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and part of Poland have already been forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. The Red occupied parts of Germany and Austria and so-called “free Poland” are being communized as rapidly as the Reds can manage it.
This is being accomplished by a three-point program: 1) By a policy of “fraternization” with the conquered peoples. 2) By the liquidation of all anti-Communists. This means whether people are Fascists, monarchists, socialists, democrats or liberals, they are shot, imprisoned, or deported — by the tens, and, if necessary, by the hundreds of thousands if they resist Communism. 3) By a policy of putting guns, money, and food, which is to say, power, into the hands of every discontented minority group which will agree to adopt the Soviet programs, regardless of their previous political connections.
In Greece and in Italy the ground work is laid for the Communist or so-called Partisan and Patriot, elements to take over as Anglo-American armies leave. There are already strong, clamorous Communist Parties in Belgium, Holland, France, and Spain. In the Near East, in Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and in the whole Arab world, there is much Communist fire. However spontaneously generated this may seem, the small local fires are fanned, or should we say these little flame throwers are directed, by the men of Moscow. The young, despairing intellectuals of India are increasingly looking towards their near and mighty neighbor, the Soviet Union, for guidance in the technique of Revolution. They get it, increasingly. And we all know that there is a powerful Chinese Communist Party, oriented toward Moscow, whose great opportunity will come when Red Russian armies move against Japan and offer to “liberate” Manchuria. Mexico, Central America, and South America are all well provided with strong Communist groups. I need remind no one that we have our own Earl Browder.
In view of these facts, we must say that Red Russia’s ideas merit all the attention they get from the fascinated statesmen of many nations at San Francisco. For they guide, quite successfully it seems, the only organized and universal political movement which the world has ever seen. The Hitlerian proselyters of international Fascism were stumblebum amateurs compared to the disciples of Stalin today.
Naturally we must ask ourselves: Is this rising world tide of Moscow-controlled communism a good or evil thing for the world? For if it is good for the world, it cannot fail to be good for America. If it is bad for the world, it must now or tomorrow be bad for us. Upon the individual American’s answer to this question will depend the fate of all the peoples of Europe and Asia in the very immediate years ahead, and the ultimate destiny of America twenty years from now.
But before we answer that question, let us talk for a moment about words: the words, for example, “good” and “evil.”
Do these words have any meaning to you? Of course they do. Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, True and False: these are the words men have used since the most ancient times — indeed since speech itself was born. Now these words, when applied to fundamental political policies and actions, have about the same meaning to all average Americans. But do they mean the same to us as they do to Communist leaders in Europe or Asia, or America today? The appalling fact is that Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, True and False not only don’t have the same meaning for them — they sometimes have no meaning at all! We often consider Soviet policy mysterious. We are often confused by the zig-zagging proclamations and contradictory utterances of the Communist leaders of Soviet Russia — and their fanatical disciple everywhere in the world, including Earl Browder here. The reason for this is that we have not faced the simple fact that these words, and kindred words, like Law, Justice, Charity, Honor and Freedom, and all the political and ethical concepts attaching to them have either diverse and various meanings to the leaders of Moscow, or, as I say, no meaning at all. They are used. But they are used merely as insensate tools, convenient labels, pleasant masks.
Let me give you an example. Do we not all sane men agree that murder is evil? I think we do. When a Nazi SS man seizes a Jew, without due process of law, or sends him to a slave camp in Siberia that deed is murder, too. And no Communist twaddle about “implementing peoples’ revolution,” “international capitalist plots,” or the “security of the proletariat” should change that judgment in the eyes of man, or can change it in the eyes of God. The imposed death, or imprisonment of any individual who has not been tried by a free jury of his peers under laws which have been framed by the will of the people, are, we say again, evil things called murder, called slavery. They were evil when the Nazis practiced them. They are evil when the Communists practice them as they do today, on a wholesale scale in all of Russia and in central Europe.
Let us get down to three fundamental political tenets, which all Americans hold to be right, good, and just.
We believe in a free press, free speech, and free worship. The Communists, wherever you find them in America, Mexico, China, or Europe, believe that the press should be pre-censored and controlled; that men should refrain from criticizing their leaders under pain of death; and that any religion not subject to state control should be “liquidated.” In short, we and the Communists are exactly 180 degrees apart on our most fundamental political concepts. Moreover the very words, Right, Good and Just mean exactly what Stalin says they mean — but only on Monday morning. For on Tuesday morning he may change his mind. If so, the Russian people are required and every Communist leader in the world is required — under pain of death — to change their minds accordingly before Wednesday. For Truth to a Communist and Moscow leader, is never an absolute. Truth is exactly what suits the Communist leaders’ political policy or purposes, or even personal whims, at any given moment.
I expect at this point you will say that in principle you agree with everything I have said. But, you say, that’s the way the Communists see things. They have the right, haven’t they, to see things and do things the way they choose?
If the Moscow Communist leaders and their agents and puppets outside of Russia have the right to communize all of Europe — and then all of Asia — by liquidating all non-Communists; if they have the right to work within all other countries to overthrow their systems of Government by force and murder; and if they have the right to plead that this international technique of terrorization and subversion is “morally justified” by the need of “security” for the Soviet Union or the “welfare of the masses,” — then, my friends, does it not logically follow that every other nation had or has that same right?
Well, we never thought the Nazis had this right yesterday. Logically then, we must agree that the Communist dictators don’t have it today, either. It is hard to have to display this troublesome moral consistency in our great hour of military victory in Europe, and when our gratitude is so very, very great to the heroic people of Russia, who helped us gain that victory. But a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that we examine the immoral nature of this Communism that is sweeping Europe. And we know that millions upon millions of individual souls there and in Asia are yearning for Freedom — the freedom to talk, to speak, to worship, to work at that which lies to their hands or appeals to their minds. Yes, the Russians, too, this valorous and enigmatic people — even they are yearning for freedom. Have we any proof of that? We have.
Let me ask you: In this war, did any large group of Americans — any American generals, ever desert American forces to fight with the Japanese or Germans? Never! And yet almost to the end, Russian soldiers by the thousands, and Russian generals by the dozens, deserted Red Russia — fled Stalinism — escaped from Communism, and fought willingly beside the Nazis. They were, of course, deceived in their search for Freedom, just as deceived as the German soldiers who deserted to Stalin. Today in the Balkans over 300,000 Russian soldiers have deserted victorious Russian armies to seek a better, richer, happier way of life. Their search becomes every day more fruitless, because the hand of Stalin reaches out for them — reaches over the Balkans.
Of course, millions of Russians put up a hard fight for their homeland. So did millions of Nazis. So do millions of Japanese. Only Communists would have you believe that the hard fight millions of Russians put up proves that Communism is, therefore, justified. And 180 million Russians are today incarcerated behind a towering wall of censorship. They are unaware that there is a world in which the words Law and Justice, Charity and Freedom, have a sweet and real and personal meaning for great masses of men. Like the Nazis, they have been subjected to years of propaganda and terrorization, or death, if they would not swallow the propaganda. The fate that has overtaken the wonderful Russian people is now about to overtake almost all the peoples of Europe and Asia.
I know what you are thinking now — I can hear your thoughts.
And what shall we Americans do about it? What can we do about it?
First, we can get our own thinking straight. We can, as individuals, write a balance sheet — a strictly moral balance sheet on communism as it has been revealed in Europe, versus parliamentary and constitutional forms of government. When we have made that balance sheet, we can decide where we each, as individuals, stand. I think morally we will find Communism in the Red — blood Red. And then when we’ve got that balance sheet clear in our minds, we can as individuals, help our Government to act abroad.
And what should our Government do abroad?
First and foremost, use our great diplomatic power and vast military prestige — now — to help all Asiatic and European statesmen and officeholders — Frenchmen, Poles, Italians, Greeks, Belgians, Dutch — Germans, Austrians — who are not either Fascists or Communists, to stay in power providing — and only providing — they are willing to form, and do form, true representative parliaments and congresses, and grant constitutions, which guarantee the people freedom of press, speech, religion, and assembly, and other essential legal rights natural to free men. Such governments, however imperfect at the beginning, will tend increasingly to respond to the real will of the people.
It is a heartbreaking pity that the heroic but enslaved Russian people — the common men of Russia — are not free to aid us in an effort to enlarge the area of human freedom. But we must understand that the plain people of Russia do not have their independence. They live in a vast concentration camp, the prisoners of their own leaders. When we remember this, we will never act or speak as some people do, as though the great Russian people were our enemies. The Russian people are and must continue to be our friends, for the peace of the world depends on that friendship. We are the two most powerful peoples on earth, and all our national goodwill and international diplomatic efforts must be directed toward cementing our friendship. This must not remain two worlds, as it is today — the world of totalitarianism and the world of liberty. Indeed, as our conflict with Nazi totalitarianism proved, these two worlds are doomed to come into conflict. It must, and will be one world sooner or later. Shall it be one world in which all the great nations of mankind stand in the light of freedom? Or shall it be one world in which all mankind crawls in the darkness of slavery?
And now in closing, I want to explain the spirit in which I have tried to speak.
When I had the great privilege of having a private audience in Rome with that sorely worried and yet saintly and serene man, Pius XII, I asked briefly concerning some of these things. Then the Holy Father spoke at great length of his awful concern for the spiritual and physical welfare of all the God loving and God fearing peoples. And while he spoke I thought: “How hard it will be when I go home to say these things publicly! What character assassination will befall me from the noisy and noisome stooges of all the Communists and their warmhearted but woolyminded fellow travelers! And the world is so tired of struggle. America is tired, too. Americans will not be happy, so soon after our great victory to have to brace themselves for this terrible intellectual and spiritual struggle against Communism which faces all those who believe that there is such a thing as Truth, and that only the Truth can make men Free . . . How shall I speak of these things?” As if he read my thoughts, the Holy Father said, “When you go home I counsel you to speak the Truth, without malice or passion. Yes, speak the Truth with produce.”
I hope I have spoken prudently. I know I have spoken the truth.
Source: US Library of Congress, Clare Booth Luce Papers, Box. 678.
Also: Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, August 15, 1945, pp. 647-649.