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How Our Commies Defame America Abroad
February 11, 1950 - The Saturday Evening Post
Joseph McCarthy is a name widely recognized for his efforts in the 1950s to expose Communist sympathizers in the United States, be they common citizens or holders of high office. His exploits were routinely dismissed as folly and he was accused of "finding a Commie behind every rock." The derisive term 'McCarthyism' was used to describe anyone exhibiting supposedly paranoid obsession with investigating suspected wrong-doing. After many decades of successful application of the charge to shut people up (like calling someone a racist today), a misfortune befell its libelants. In 1995, the Venona papers (secret messages between Moscow and its U.S. agents decrypted by our government), data from Soviet archives and executive-session transcripts of Senate committees were finally opened after a 50-year ban. The information showed that McCarthy was justified in his suspicions after all.
|The Saturday Evening Post
February 18, 1950
[Table of Contents]
These articles are scanned
and OCRed from old editions of the The Saturday Evening Post magazine. Here is a list of the
The Saturday Evening Post articles I have
already posted. As time permits, I will be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
This article, which I ran across while looking for interesting old stories and advertisements relating to radio and electronics, is one of many examples of those which appeared in the era. Undoubtedly it was dismissed by many as folderol. The full-page advertisement run by "America's business-managed, tax-paying Electric Light and Power Companies" also addresses the danger of Government usurping private industry and imposing its strong arm of control on citizens' lives. That was more than 60 years ago. Today, we have Government snatching control of automobile companies (General Motors) and shutting down heritage companies like Pontiac, using tax-payer money to pay Cash for Clunkers, to fund bogus 'green' energy companies like Solyndra, using regulatory agencies like the EPA to force companies out of business (mainly power generation), to imposing unproven and hyperexpensive technology (e.g., wind power) on communities, to usurp control of the entire health care industry (partisan law), to spy on every citizen by every means available, and to grow the size of government to its present behemoth state so that resistance, as HAL would say, is futile. The sad thing is that entire generations have now been taught to shut up and comply with the dictates of our supremely intelligent and benevolent overlords. I utterly reject it.
How Our Commies Defame America Abroad
By Vic Reinemer
The author, a graduate of Montana University, relates the appalling things he saw and heard as a delegate to the widely advertised students' "Peace" rally in Budapest. A factual report that will astonish - and anger - you.
|From the same edition:|
A SOCIALISTIC U.S.A.?
Would you like to live in a socialist America? Most Americans wouldn't. But there's a real danger that we will - whether we want it or not.
One of the main roads to socialism is government ownership and control of important businesses. The electric light and power business is one - and this map shows how far the government is in it already.
Every white dot - 209 of them - on the map marks an electric power plant now operated or financed by our federal government. Every black dot shows where another government power plant is being built, expanded or proposed. In all-over 700 places in 44 states! And a long step toward a socialistic U. S. A.
Most of the people who speak for more . government control over American life don't want a socialistic nation. They have other reasons for government control.
But when government, moving step by step, controls enough things, we'll have a socialist government, whether we want it or not. And, instead of our freedoms, we'll have government control; not only over business, but over churches, schools, homes - our whole lives.
• You hear much talk now of giving the federal government control over doctors and the railroads, too. We, the business-managed electric light and power companies which publish this advertisement, are battling the move toward a socialistic government. We want to remind everyone how seriously it threatens every business - and everybody's freedom.
America's business-managed, tax-paying
Electric Light and Power Companies
American students abroad are among the world's most avid bargain hunters. They usually haven't much money, but they want to see a lot with what they have. At least that's the way I felt, studying in Paris under the G.I. Bill after finishing up at Montana University. And last summer the bargain of the year appeared: Two weeks in Budapest, with lodging, meals at a world-famous restaurant, streetcar and subway transportation, reduced railway fare and free medical treatment in Hungary, a cruise on the Danube, admission to foreign films and shows ranging from Mongolian folk dancing to Scottish bagpiping - all for forty dollars.
The bargain was the second World Youth and Student Festival, jointly sponsored by the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Union of Students. The same organizations had sponsored a similar festival - the first - in Prague in 1947.
My roommate in Paris, Byron ('Huge') Bottomly, and I first heard about the festival at one of the travel agencies in July. It was to start August fourteenth. "What do you think, Huge?" I asked, counting a dwindling supply of francs. "This looks like a good chance to see Eastern Europe." In the year I'd been at the Sorbonne, I'd managed to cover most of the Western countries. But, except for one trip to Czechoslovakia as an Army pilot, I'd never been beyond Germany and Austria.
Huge agreed that it sounded too good to miss. "Of course," he added, "they'll probably be out to impress us with the virtues of communism, considering that it's held in Hungary." But we decided that that would be interesting too. Posters emphasized that the theme of the festival was Peace. We thought that if the youth of all nations could get together, pointing out the good and admitting the bad in their own countries, maybe some real good might come of it.
At the festival's Paris headquarters, we were told to write to American Youth for a Free World, 144 Bleecker Street, New York. This organization sent us an application blank. It contained no ideological questions, but asked what festival activities interested us most - music, sports, discussions, and so on - and what city in Europe we'd be leaving from. Hungarian visas, they wrote, would be available at the Hungarian consulate in that city. We decided to visit Czechoslovakia en route, and pick up our visas in Prague. In mid-August we set out.
Huge got off at Nuremberg to see about a job, while I toured Czechoslovakia for a few days. Finally I took a train that got me to Budapest on August fifteenth. There were a good many festival delegates aboard. At the border we were met by members of the Pioneers, a Hungarian youth organization, who greeted us with flowers, soft drinks, salami sandwiches and the festival theme song:
We are the youth,
And the world shall hear our truth;
When the customs inspector" saw that my visa was stamped "Festival," he outdid himself in affability and declined to search my luggage.
It was about eleven o'clock at night when we pulled into the Budapest station. Quite a few delegates who had already arrived were on hand to meet us with Hungarian interpreters. We were bundled into taxis and driven to the American delegation headquarters, a former girls' school at 36 Veres Pelne Utca. I took my gear up to the third floor, where the men were quartered, and found an empty cot in the room Huge and fourteen other men were occupying. On one wall was a large red banner reading: DECAY THE IMPERIALISTS, THE WAR INSTIGATORS AND THEIR BASE AGENTS. I hadn't seen Huge since Nuremberg, but he told me he'd arrived at the festival in time for the opening ceremonies on Sunday.
"You should have been here," he said. "Grace Tillman - she's cochairman of our outfit - made quite a speech on our behalf. She's here representing the Southern Negro Youth Congress:"
I got a copy of the speech later, as released by the festival press section. "Today," she had started out, "scarcely have the war drums died down ... while peace-loving countries are busily planning, working and rebuilding their social order, there are those who are plotting further exploitation and oppression. Foremost among them are the banks and trusts - the high financiers, monopolists, imperialists of America."
I thought this was being a little hard on her own country, but she'd just started. She went on:
Through the Marshall Plan they (the financiers, and so on) dump their produce on the needy people of the world, giving guns instead of bread, and raincoats instead of basic machinery. In the guise of being champions of world democracy, they dictate the political policies of the participating countries ...
"In the face of these indignities against human rights, a new mass protest arose. The masses of the people and youth rose up and demanded an end to injustice ... They pointed out that white workers can never be free if Negro workers are enslaved. They recognized that the world can never be free as long as colonial countries are oppressed."
I admit I thought she had a point here - about color discrimination and the legitimate beef of colonial peoples. But I was still not prepared for her statement that" ... the example of the Soviet Union, the new people's democracies and the heroic Chinese people spur us on to reach this goal."
Huge gave me the gist of it that first night. "Look," I said, "do you mean that the delegation O.K.'d that without even suggesting that it wasn't strictly so?"
"Hell, no," he answered. "Nobody asked us."
Huge went on to sketch in the picture for me. There were about 10,000 delegates at the festival, representing eighty-two countries and colonies - every major nation, in fact, except Yugoslavia. Most of the American delegates had already arrived in Budapest. Some of the delegations apparently had had a pretty tough time getting to Hungary. The Greeks, for instance, had been forced to by-pass Yugoslavia as well as their own "nationalistic" countrymen. The Chinese, traveling across the Soviet Union, had taken twenty-two days getting to Budapest. But they were all here now.
The next day, I paid my forty dollars and then went to the American Legation to see if I had any mail. Like other Americans who received mail, I was asked to speak to one of the consular officers. It was a pleasant interview and it resulted in Huge and me being invited to a party that night. The rest of the day I spent window-shopping. Sometimes you can tell a good deal about a city from its window displays. Budapest, by this yardstick, seemed to retain much of its old, "decadent" spirit.
The Hungarians still could relax and enjoy their meals to the strains of gypsy music in most of the restaurants and night clubs - though the latter were likely to feature American swing music and good floor shows. The only concession to the party line that I came across in the floor shows was a skit at one place called the Plantazs. This involved an American Indian, an Oklahoman and a Chinese. As one of the men with us translated it, the Oklahoman was an American capitalist busy exploiting the Indian, while the Chinese represented Communist China deploring this sort of thing.
At the same night club we saw a quartet of security police who took quite an interest in us. When we got up to leave, they started to follow us until I went up to one and whispered, "Good night, comrade." This was as close as I came to being shadowed during my stay in Budapest, but a number of American delegates told me that they thought they were followed at one time or another. As far as I could tell, however, the Hungarian people themselves have a good deal more freedom of movement - within the country, that is - than we in America realize. I think a partial explanation of this is that the government simply isn't organized to keep continual tabs on everybody.
The next day, Wednesday, we all got up about 7:30 and had breakfast at delegation headquarters. Bread, cheese and milk - hearty, but pretty dull as an everyday affair, though we really couldn't kick, considering that we were paying only forty dollars for the whole affair. At 8:30 there was a meeting in the hall on the ground floor of the school, and I got my first look at the American delegation as a body. There were almost 200 of us, about equally divided between girls and boys. The average age, I learned, was twenty-two - counting in an eight-months-old baby. Half a dozen were Negroes. Ninety-five were students, thirty trade-unionists, and the others for the most part representatives of various organizations - forty from Young Progressives, for instance, and thirteen from the Association of Interns and Medical Students, plus a few free-lance observers like Huge and myself. New York City seemed to have the largest representation.
The meeting featured remarks delivered by Cochairman Shepherd Thierman, an intern at Kings County Hospital in New York City. He charged that certain "finks and stool pigeons" had been "squealing to the striped-trouser boys." This apparently referred to the interviews that some of us had had with the legation staff, as I described. Just what this "squealing" meant didn't come out till the next day.
After the meeting, about half the delegation went off to rehearse for our "cultural presentation." The rest of us signed up for tickets to various activities, a list of which was posted each evening - usually a choice of about ten afternoon and evening events. Lunch and dinner were served us at Gundel's, a famous old restaurant, before the war a must for gourmets. Now nationalized, it still maintained a good cuisine. We delegates ate at long tables toward the back, while the front part still did a brisk trade in non delegate business. The only complaint I heard about our food there was that we always had grapes for dessert.
Since none of that afternoon's cultural or sporting events particularly appealed to me; I went to the Festival Exhibition Hall, a huge building with displays from each participating country and colony. An immense plaque reached almost to the ceiling of one wall Two beautiful red drapes hung from either side of it, and it was crowned with a hammer and sickle mounted on a "red star. Busts of Stalin and Lenin stood in front of the drapes. The plaque itself bore the motto - in Hungarian, Russian, English and French- "UNDER THE BANNER OF LENIN, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF STALIN - FORWARD TO THE VICTORY OF COMMUNISM.
The American display featured an open letter to President Truman and Congress which read: "Peace is the demand of all peoples. We want peace pacts, not war pacts. We call upon you to cooperate with the Soviet Union in accordance with the principles of the United Nations, so that the peoples of the world can live together in peace and friendship." Several thousand delegates had already signed this letter. After all, there aren't many people who argue against peace. Further along was a picture of the Statue of Liberty - behind bars. Another showed a hooded figure hanging a Negro. Photographs of slums represented American housing. Well, like most Americans, I'm not very proud of slums or of the Ku Klux Klan, and I'm not surprised when the communists play them up. But I was surprised to see these things presented by the American delegation as typical of our country. A number of us felt that our display should show something more positive about the United States as well as these blemishes. But we didn't get to first base with that idea.
One American poster read: TWO THIRDS OF THE RESEARCH IN UNIVERSITIES IN THE U.S. IS DESIGNED FOR WAR PREPARATION. Nearby were two charts "comparing" expenditures for armaments and education in the Soviet Union and the United States. This particular display was described as follows in the festival newspaper:
All of them (the youth of different nations) find themselves clenching their hands into a fist as they read, on one of the tables, that the United States budget appropriation for armaments is fifty-one percent and for education one percent. And all young people's faces brighten up again as they read a line further down that in the Soviet Union nineteen percent of the national expenditure is on armament and twenty-six percent on education.
Since I knew as a fact that the national expenditure for defense in the United States was currently about two and a half times that for education, I could tell at a glance that the chart represented our educational expenditure as being about twenty times less than it actually is. In short, the display was I an out-and-out fraud. The point is, education in the United States is financed largely by local taxes on real estate and state income taxes, so the Federal budget gives no indication of the amount of money we spend on education. But probably few delegates from other countries were aware of this. I watched dozens of young men and women stop and read these charts. They'd nod and frown - as much as to say, "So it is true."
Things were different at the Soviet pavilion. The pictures there were of bright, modern day nurseries, beautiful school buildings, hospitals and resorts. As the newspaper article put it: "The descriptions of the immense factories and reports on production competition are proof of the exceptional technical development of the Soviet people." This, as opposed to lynchings, tenements and a 1-percent appropriation for education in the United States. It seemed such obvious distortion that it was almost funny - until I saw that to many people, this was simply confirmation of what they'd been told. After all, we were Americans, representing our country. Certainly they could take our word for it. When I realized that, it no longer seemed funny at all.
The next day, Thursday, we found I out what was behind Shep Thierman's talk of "squealing to the striped-trouser boys." It seems that one of the delegates, a likable Brooklyn fellow named Joe, had made a tactical blunder when he was being questioned at the American Legation, after going to get his mail. The legation officer had chatted with him for a few minutes, then asked if there were any communists in the delegation.
Joe's answer-which he'd been. unwise enough to repeat to some of his fellow delegates-had been, "I suppose there are some." This, Thierman charged, was "a serious crime," giving information to the State Department, which he called "the single greatest threat to peace in the world." Several delegates insisted that Joe should be expelled from the delegation. Two said they could see no crime in what he'd done. At length the steering committee, proposed and elected without opposition on the opening day, decided to consider the matter.
On Friday Joe was given the floor at the plenary session. With really impressive seriousness, he admitted that he'd committed a grave error. "Don't repeat my mistake," he warned the other delegates. Thierman advised him that his answer to the American Legation should have been, "I don't know. " But due to his recantation, no disciplinary action was taken. Joe later said privately that he had" confessed" to keep from being expelled. He wanted to stay and see what went on.
The following day Thierman again presided at the plenary meeting. This time he had a different" criminal." He started by stating that the meeting had been called to discuss certain rumors which had been circulating within the delegation. The chief one was a story about some Hungarian girl who had been taken to secret-police headquarters on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, and had had her hair and fingernails torn out. This" vicious rumor," Shep said, was totally unconfirmed - which, as far as I know, was true.
There was a grave danger, Shep continued, that these rumors concerning conditions in Hungary were being deliberately circulated with the express purpose of defaming our hosts. The steering committee was reluctantly forced to conclude that there were certain members of the delegation whose purpose in coming to the festival had not been to "work for peace," but to sabotage these very efforts, as part of a "deliberate plan of disruption by FBI agents and State Department spies."
After nearly two hours of this sort of thing, Thierman identified "the culprit as a little art student from Virginia named Regina Bartley. She had admitted to the steering committee the previous night that she had been responsible for spreading the rumors, he told us. Furthermore, she had admitted that her purposes in coming to the festival had been "to see what Hungary was like" and "to study art," as well as "to meet and talk to the youth of the other nations." The steering committee asked for a resolution empowering it to investigate all cases of rumor-mongering and to expel any delegates guilty of "this crime."
Regina was given a chance to defend herself on the floor. She denied that she had been doing anything wrong in repeating what she'd been told. She hadn't made the stories up.
"I believe I have the right to express, my opinions freely,"she said, and then broke down in tears - more of anger and frustration than anything else, I thought. A number of speakers discussed the matter. Grace Tillman, the short, forceful Negro cochairman, was vehement in condemning the "known efforts of a small group to sabotage the delegation." Doris Senk, executive secretary of American Youth for a Free World, and Roosevelt Ward, the only Negro boy in the delegation, a tall, good-looking, personable chap, echoed Tillman's speech. Both were members of the steering committee.
Tom Wheeler, a studious Harvard boy, stated that he thought giving the steering committee the powers of investigation and expulsion would be a violation of free speech. Paul Seabury, a slender Columbia University instructor, referred to a "deliberate attempt by some people in the delegation to create an atmosphere of fear." All of us, he said, were vigorous defenders of civil liberties at home, and it was rather curious to see the attitude of some in Budapest.
Pete Anson, now a senior at Princeton, and Jim Garst, representing the U.C.L.A. Daily Bruin, also opposed the steering committee's right to expel. The proposal was put to a vote. Voting was by a show of hands. Five of us disapproved the committee's right to this power. Three or four delegates abstained from voting. The motion was overwhelmingly approved.
Actually, the steering committee found it unnecessary to expel Regina. Like many delegates, she had elected to pay her forty dollars in two installments. When the time came for her to make the second-week payment, it was refused. Regina left Budapest.
The next item on the agenda was a resolution that Pete Anson and Tom Wheeler had drawn up in honor of St. Stephen's Day, the Hungarian national holiday. Read to the meeting by Roosevelt Ward, chairman of the resolutions committee, the first paragraph was simply a greeting to the people of Hungary, and a congratulation on "the social and economic achievements which they have won since their liberation from Fascism."
The second paragraph read: "We shall remember the warm, gracious reception accorded us by our Hungarian hosts. Life has disproved the slanders of the monopoly press of America, which lies to our youth about the new people's democracy of Hungary. The people of Budapest gave us their city so that we might have the opportunity to come together to learn of each other's problems and to mobilize our collective strength."
Anson jumped up, protesting. This wasn't the way his second paragraph had read when he'd submitted it to Ward. Pete read his original paragraph: "We hope that, in addition to the progress which has already been achieved, they (the Hungarian people) may succeed in adding a final freedom: the freedom of opinion, its free expression and political organization, which can only exist without fear of recrimination in a genuinely democratic country."
Since the resolution had been introduced in a different version, Pete offered his original as an amendment. Four hands voted for it, with perhaps another four abstentions. By a reverse vote, the doctored version was approved.
The next meeting of any importance was on the following Tuesday. Grace Tillman presided. The day before, a question had been raised about the American publications - newspapers, periodicals and legation - printed Hungarian press translations and radio news bulletins - which legation employees said they had been asked by the Hungarian Festival Committee to provide for U. S. delegates. Neither the press translations nor the radio bulletins had ever been distributed to us. When asked why not, Thierman had answered that they were "State Department propaganda."
Now, in a highly emotional speech, Grace Tillman claimed that the translation of her opening-day address was a malicious distortion, and that "a vicious attempt" had been made to link her with the communist leaders, by mentioning her name in the same paragraph with that of Matyas Rakosi, Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary and Secretary General of the country's Communist Party. Other speakers leaped to their feet, charging that this was a malicious attempt to establish "guilt by association."
Since the whole festival was organized under the motto: FORWARD TO THE VICTORY OF COMMUNISM, it seemed to me that this protest of Tillman's was pretty foolish. If she thought communism so fine, why object to the association of names. If she was against communism, why cite Russia as a nation to emulate?
Bob Warshaw, a stocky graduate student from Harvard, asked for the floor when Grace tried to close the discussion on her high note of righteous wrath and maligned innocence. She said he could have the floor, but only to express an opinion, not to compare the "distorted" translation with her original speech. Bob refused to accept these conditions. After some argument, he was given the floor.
Bob read the two versions, and stated that he believed the changes in wording were perfectly natural, since the speech had first been translated into Hungarian and then back into English. Furthermore, he charged, if the translation was reasonably accurate, the steering committee itself was guilty of rumormongering and subject to expulsion under the resolution it had itself recommended.
Several delegates shouted for the floor. Grace Tillman ruled that no attempt should be made to discuss the particulars of the translations - an odd ruling, since it was precisely these particulars to which she had objected. Needless to say, Warshaw's attempted censure of the steering committee failed - though it did gain thirteen votes, the most ever cast against the delegation leadership on a policy issue.
Something else happened that morning after the meeting was over that I still don't quite understand. One American girl, Maryhope Weir, returned to her room to find her passport mutilated. The Hungarian visa and several other pages had been torn out. She notified Shep Thierman and then called the legation, although two of the Hungarian interpreters had forcibly stopped her from telephoning until she threatened to scream. At least so she claimed - they denied it. A legation officer came over to our headquarters, but Shep refused even to discuss the incident unless a Hungarian lawyer was present. Of course, nothing definite could be established one way or another. There was nothing to indicate who had torn the passport. And there wasn't much Maryhope could do about it.
Most of Wednesday's meeting was occupied with a discussion of the passport. Maryhope said she thought it had been done by one of the persons who disagreed with her views, definitely anticommunist. Doris Senk and a number of other" majority" speakers. however, used the incident to whip up feeling against "saboteurs." They passed a resolution stating: "We are convinced that it is a part of an organized campaign by provocateurs," but that the delegation would not be intimidated by such maneuvers.
"This is a peace gathering of youth," Doris said, "and if they come to disrupt, we'll see that they are taken care of in a day or two."
"The legation has no right to investigate this," opined Doctor Thierman. And there the matter rested. Maryhope left Budapest as soon as her papers had been replaced. On her way back to France, I learned later, she was taken off the plane in Prague and questioned about the incident for two hours by Czech and Hungarian police. They kept after her until she was sick to her stomach, and then told her they were sending her back to Hungary. At the last minute they put her back aboard the Paris plane.
This same Wednesday was Colonial Day, marked by a rather impressive parade of colonials marching arm in arm with delegates from the major countries. There was a depth of sincerity and a warmth of feeling to the demonstration that couldn't have been faked. I would have been more impressed, however, if it hadn't been for the Colonial Day editorial in the mimeographed newspaper published by the American delegation.
"American bullets (it read) shot from American guns under the guidance of American Army officers are daily taking the lives of colonial youth .... We live in a country whose Truman Doctrine supplies arms and training for the murder of Greek youth ... of the Indonesian freedom fighters ... of Viet Nam youth. We live in a country whose Army Medical Corps performs disciplinary amputations of arms in upper Egypt ..." It seemed to me that the case for colonial peoples was strong enough without this kind of overstatement.
As if to lend weight to these statements, that afternoon the American delegation officially entertained the Greek delegation, one of the most colorful of several that visited us. They were all, boys and girls, ELAS fighters, and they looked tired. Their applause was polite but perfunctory. One of the girls couldn't take her eyes off the handbag carried by an American girl. During the speech with which our delegation greeted them - "We understand very well the role of imperialism in our country, which is trying to make a colony of Greece" - she reached out two or three times to touch it. I wonder what she was thinking.
On Friday we entertained the German delegation. I spoke a little German and knew one of the boys, a serious, wide-eyed little blond chap named Erich. I'd met him on the Danube cruise on Saturday night. He was a sincere and friendly kid; we got along fine in spite of my limited vocabulary. Erich had been a Hitler Youth at ten. Now, at nineteen, he belonged to a communist youth group. His home, Leipzig, is in the Russian zone. After having lived so long under Nazism, the abrupt switch to communism must have been bewildering, but he seemed pretty sincerely convinced that Russia had the answers. He told me that the German delegation numbered about 700, of whom fifty or sixty had come from the western zones.
That night the American cultural presentation was made. About half of the American delegates had been practicing for a couple of hours every day on it. They gave a very good performance. Several numbers were sung by a large choral group. There were cowboy songs, Negro spirituals, Yankee Doodle, John Brown's Body and Joe Hill. And whatever the performers lacked in finesse, they made up in sincerity. To them, I'm convinced, this was a true representation of the folklore and ideology of their country.
Brochures in four languages were distributed. A paragraph opposite each selection explained its significance. For instance, the note to Yankee Doodle read: "This song, now usurped by the State Department reactionary 'Voice of America' programs, was on the lips of the American soldiers in our Revolutionary War of 1776." A skit titled Efficiency was described as depicting "the increasing burdens being piled on the American worker. While his wages go down, his tasks and the bosses' profits go up." The performers were billed as members of the Progressive Party Caravans which had toured campaigning for Henry Wallace.
But the pay-off was the brochure's introduction. "In a time of developing economic crisis," it read, "the few of us lucky enough to land jobs face declining wages, insecure seniority, speed-up and campaigns of terror and sabotage against our unions. But the greater part of our young people have no jobs at all, and walk the streets in search of employment ... Many of us are former servicemen, our meager veterans' allotments exhausted, our postwar dreams of full employment smashed.
To the ever louder demand of our youth for jobs, all Wall Street can answer is 'Join the Army.'"
That "meager veterans' allotments" stopped me. The Europeans I'd talked to about the G.I. Bill had certainly not considered our allotments meager. Some wouldn't believe that all the benefits really existed. Others had reacted the same way that many Europeans do when speaking of their war-ravaged cities and countryside. "You Americans are lucky," they'd say, "yes, too lucky."
I was interested to hear, later, that most of the boys and girls who took part in the show never saw this brochure until afterward.
On Sunday, the closing day of the festival, all but a very few of the 10,000 delegates marched past the reviewing stand of Matyas Rakosi. Most delegations were dressed in their colorful national costumes, far outshining the American participants, somewhat haphazardly dressed in white shirts and dark trousers. Bands played, banners waved. Some of the delegations did native dances as they marched. It was extremely impressive. With eighty-two nations participating, each so distinctly individual in its costume, and yet clearly showing an over-all feeling of comradeship and common purpose, it was an irresistible suggestion of what a truly united world could offer.
After the parade our delegation adopted a lengthy resolution. We had, it said, learned "that the greatest danger to the peace and national independence of the peoples and youth all over the world comes from the war-bent billionaires in Wall Street."
That evening the American delegation held a last party. Somebody got a keg of beer, a Scotsman barged in with bagpipe skirling, and members of some other delegations came to say good-by to friends they'd made in our outfit. Everybody had a fine time.
One of our visitors from a foreign delegation was my German friend Erich. We talked, and he praised the Soviet system generally. Also, he criticized the United States rather severely, and sometimes, in my opinion, justly. Anti-Negro bias was one of the things he held most against us. But there were some things, too, upon which he'd been misinformed. He thought, for example, that most American farmers were still in the "dust-bowl" era, and that the Ku Klux Klan was virtually an arm of our Government. He was surprised to hear the truth. But we were friends, and I think he believed me.
At one point another young German came up to Erich and called him aside. He returned puzzled and somewhat abashed.
"An American delegate had my friend tell me not to talk to you," he said. "She said you might give me some wrong ideas." Then he laughed. "I think it is better to hear all sides and try to find the truth," he said. We talked until two o'clock the next morning.
To me, the fact that he is still looking for the truth, that he is willing to hear "all sides" of the ideological controversy being fought between East and West, is extremely encouraging. But we ought not underestimate the effect on the young people of the world of such carefully slanted affairs as this World Youth Festival. The communists are paying a great deal of attention to the younger generation. If that younger generation doesn't get to hear or see the other side of the picture about the United States, and soon, it will be next to impossible to change their minds about us.
See all articles from the Saturday Evening Post.
Posted September 22, 2013