How Our Commies Defame America Abroad
February 11, 1950 - The Saturday Evening
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
February 11, 1950
[Table of Contents]
The Saturday Evening Post
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. 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.See all articles from the
Saturday Evening Post.
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
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.
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
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:"
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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 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.
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
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."
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
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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."
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
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."
interested to hear, later, that most of the boys and girls who took
part in the show never saw this brochure until afterward.
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.
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