February 11, 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. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
The Saturday Evening Post
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
(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.
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
How Our Commies Defame America Abroad
By Vic Reinemer
From the same edition:
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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?
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
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 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
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
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.
Posted March 25, 2021(original 9/22/2013)