DECEMBER 22, 1947
HYDE PARK, Sunday—Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov's statement giving his interpretation of what happened in the Big Four conference is particularly interesting because of its efforts at self-justification. Mr. Molotov said that the Soviets had agreed to cut down on their demands for reparations, that they would be willing to see German production in the Western zones increased from the present 35 percent of 1938 production to 70 percent, out of which they would expect 10 percent—which, he said, the country could well afford to pay if production were at the 70 percent level. However, the Western zones could not reach this point of production if they did not receive from somewhere, presumably the United States, a very large amount of aid in the way of machinery, nor would it be possible for the Soviets to continue to take out factories and machinery in the way in which they have done in those areas where they are dominant.
The Soviets calmly state that in their zone no debt has been incurred by the people, whereas in the British and American zones a debt has been piling up for food, etc. It's just conceivable that the people in their zone have not received as much and have gone a bit hungrier than in other zones. The truth of the matter is that, while I doubt whether either the British or American zone is run perfectly, there is no great effort made on the part of the people to go from these zones into the Eastern zones—which is fairly good proof that conditions are probably not much better there.
I know that it is never ideal to have an occupying army in a country. No occupation army behaves itself 100 percent well. And the sooner supervision of Germany can be placed in civilian hands, the better it will be for our young soldiers—and that's not just my opinion, but the opinion of the military authorities.
Mr. Molotov's explanation sounds plausible, but he explains too much and he assumes there was a community of understanding beforehand between the Western powers. It's true that, because their ways of thinking are more similar, they probably arrive at the same conclusions with greater ease. And it's probably true that greater efforts should therefore be made to present to the Soviet authorities every step of thinking of the other governments, so that at every point they would be informed. But even then I doubt if, for many years to come, we'll approach questions in the same manner. That will have to be a matter of slow growth.
There was a time in the United States when the individual was less important than the community as a whole—that grew out of our weakness and our need for expansion. That is probably one of the reasons why the Russians are genuinely surprised that you should be concerned with the fate of smaller nations, since they represent such a small number of people. I am quite sure it has never occurred to the Russian government that the rest of the world might believe that some of the smaller nations they dominate have as much right to consideration as their great nation has.
The importance of the mass of people as against a small group or individuals will change only as the whole nation reaches a higher standard of living and begins to have time to think of itself on individual lines. The sooner Russia as a nation becomes conscious that there are those of us who have reached the point where individuals and small nations are as important as big nations and masses of people, the sooner we'll begin to understand each other and at least work together in certain fields where we have a community of interest. It might be in art; it might be in business. But contact is the all-important thing, because only through contacts are changes going to be brought about.
(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1947, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.; REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR PART PROHIBITED.)
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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 22, 1947
- Brick, Christopher (Editor)
- Regenhardt, Christy (Associate Editor)
- Black, Allida M. (Editor)
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