JULY 19, 1946
NEW YORK, Thursday—I was somewhat saddened this morning when I saw in the paper that Gen. Draja Mihailovich of Yugoslavia had been executed. The man next to me in the subway pointed it out to a friend and said, "That's the Russian way of handling things. He wasn't a traitor to his country. He fought the Germans at the start, but he didn't agree to the kind of government the Yugoslavs now have, and that's what happens to the opposition."
I think he pretty much voiced a feeling which troubles many people. We who live in countries where we are free to oppose the existing form of government, so long as we do not advocate violence, fear this means of handling political opposition. In the United States, in Great Britain, in France and in many other countries, you can speak your mind about the public men in power. You can advocate changes in your government without fear that the party in power will hale you into court and then shoot you at dawn.
You wait and you use your persuasive powers, and sometimes you win the next election and sometimes you lose, in which case you go on waiting. Until people throughout the world learn that changes can be brought about peaceably through persuasion and discussion, so that revolutions on the one hand and the use of force by the party in power on the other are unnecessary, there is no security for any opposition.
* * *
We will have great difficulty bringing about a meeting of minds between peoples who have such different ideas of what political freedom means. I can represent my government and, if I disagree with any stand they wish me to take, I can resign, but no one will put me in prison or punish me in any way. That is the only way, it seems to me, that one can have political freedom.
If one lives in fear of reprisal by the party in power, then there are bound to be undercover efforts to overthrow the government by force, since human beings are so made that they cannot help disagreeing with each other, now on one subject and now on another. Until the democratic nations of the world really live by the will of the majority, one cannot say that one has a democratic form of government. The will of the majority also must be ascertained without holding any threat over people's heads.
Here in our country, there have been times when efforts were made to influence public opinion in an election, and in some elections, even recently, some efforts have been made to threaten people. For instance, I can remember a case when a large group of workers, immediately prior to an election, found in their pay envelopes a note which said: "If Candidate___ is elected next Tuesday, this plant will have to close and you will have no job."
There have been other times when people have been promised certain benefits, and their sense of greed may have overridden their sense of obligation to a free citizenship—temporarily! By and large, however, our people have grown to know that neither threats nor promises carry much weight. A plant will not stay closed if it is worthwhile for the manufacturers to open it. If people should receive some temporary benefit by voting a certain way, they may find other reasons to regret their action.
I think that, year by year, our votes are getting more representative of what people really think, with no strings pulled by anybody! If we believe in democracy and if we are going to get on in the world peacefully, this is what must happen to create confidence amongst us the world over.
(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1946, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.; REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR PART PROHIBITED.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 19, 1946
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
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