The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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PARIS, Wednesday—Simultaneously with the opening debate in the Security Council of the United Nations on the Berlin situation, a communication was received from the Soviet Foreign Minister, Viacheslav Molotov, proposing that there should be a new meeting of the Big Four not only to discuss the Berlin situation but the whole situation in Germany.

The average person on the outside might feel encouraged by this offer to renew negotiations on that troublous problem, but for those who have watched the situation for a long time there is always the question whether, in resuming negotiations, you are simply giving Russia a further opportunity for meaningless conversation that leads to no compromise and no decision.

It may well be that they do not like the idea of the arrangements entered into by France, Great Britain and United States to set up a government in Western Germany. It may be that this lies at the back of much of our trouble.

When you read such a curiously contradictory statement as made by Marshal Vasily Sokolovsky in Berlin on Monday -- to the effect that there is no real blockade of Germany and that the only object that the other powers have in Berlin is to upset the Soviet economy -- one wonders how it is possible for these intelligent men to deceive themselves so completely. Then after you have listened to Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Vishinsky and heard him twist the atomic energy situation and proposals for disarmament into a pattern to suit his own liking, entirely disregarding facts, you become slightly bewildered.

On Saturday in Committee Three we listened to the Soviet delegate speak on human rights, but in the course of this speech he took the occasion to attack both Great Britain and the United States. On Monday, the delegate from the United Kingdom made his statement on the declaration of human rights, which was a reasonably objective statement. Then he turned to the points made in the Soviet delegate's attack and not only answered them in the way we have done so many times before, but proceeded to attack in return.

While watching the Soviet delegate, I felt convinced he would demand an opportunity to answer the Briton, which certainly would not have been a saving of time because it probably would have led to a counter-answer. My mind suddenly visualized some reports that came from the Mental Health Congress held in London last summer where was discussed the possibility of using psychiatry and psychoanalysis to help people function better in international relations. Inwardly, I chuckled as I thought, "What an opportunity for the gentlemen who met in London to observe our actions and reactions and give us some good advice."

If we follow the pattern of the primitive male we will go from polite innuendo to straightforward accusations; from accusations to verbal threats; and, finally, to physical blows. The male animal, unless he is restrained by public opinion as expressed through laws, naturally resorts to force. Fortunately, we did not reach that point.

But the Soviet delegate was deeply disappointed when the chairman announced that the opportunity given to the delegates from the Ukraine and Czechoslovakia was sufficient to answer the points made in the British delegate's speech. The chairman maintained that he was not obliged to give the Soviet delegate a second opportunity to speak in the general debate and to carry on a game of accusation and counter-accusation ad infinitum.

I wish we could all forget our grievances and start looking for a few pleasant things we might say about each other.

Quite obviously, we could say that the Russians had been valiant allies when once they had made up their minds to be on the Allied side. For their part, they might occasionally acknowledge that the war material received from the United States made a considerable change in their situation. They might also add the fact that Great Britain kept a considerable number of German troops busy elsewhere, which alleviated their burdens. Consequently, this made it possible for them to make their magnificent stand at Stalingrad and turn back the German tide of invasion far sooner than they would have been able to do had the Germans had a free hand to turn upon them alone and had there been no outside equipment brought in to bolster their own.

The Russians want us to declare at frequent intervals that Fascism is to be condemned and never allowed to raise its head again. Fascism never had any attractions for me whatsoever, but Communism, when it means a police state that allows no opposition political parties and removes all leaders of any opposition, does not seem to me to differ very radically from Fascism.

We have been told here by the delegate from the Ukraine that we could not understand the one-party system because we could not understand the people who all wanted the same thing. If one could look at these serious-minded young men and smile, that one remark would have made me smile, because in many occasions of crisis I have known people come together in agreement on some great principle.

I cannot believe, however, that the people of the Soviet Union are so different from the people in the rest of the world. I cannot believe that they have no differences of opinion, even on minor questions in ordinary times.

There may be arising out of all these verbal attacks and counterattacks the threat of war, which is a serious thing, and one cannot help wanting to say:

“Gentlemen, do grow up.”

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Paris (France) [ index ]
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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 7, 1948

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.