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

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NEW YORK—Last Wednesday evening I went to a most interesting dinner party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Rosenberg. There I had the pleasure of talking with Senator William Benton at the dinner as well as with my hostess and many other delightful people.

After dinner the group gathered together for general conversation, an enlightening procedure that is rather rare at a dinner party nowadays. At an appropriate time I asked a question which had been asked of me during the day:

"How do you explain why communism has any appeal at all to intellectuals or to the intelligent people of countries that are not suffering from great economic distress?"

The consensus, as I judged it, was that many people did not think of communism in the terms of what actually exists today in the Soviet Union. They thought of it primarily as a Marxist doctrine, more or less of an economic Utopia with ideals that are similar to those phrased for me some time ago by Marshal Tito.

I had asked Marshal Tito to give me his definition of communism. His answer was that no country had real communism as yet, least of all Russia where there existed state capitalism and an imperialistic form of government. He disclaimed true communism in his own country, saying that they were trying in Yugoslavia to establish a socialist state, which was only the first step toward true communism.

True communism had not yet been achieved anywhere, he said, since it required that all people should cease to be greedy and be willing to see each individual receive according to his need from communal production.

I pointed out to Marshal Tito that this existed in an Israel kibbutz, and he insisted this could not exist anywhere since people were not unselfish enough as yet to live together in this way!

I think the feeling in our group at the dinner party was that it was this idealistic concept which appealed to intellectuals, the idea of reaching a state where no one suffered and where there was a standard of achievement that was not financial, so that everyone could share in a decent and happy existence.

But, since this ideal does not resemble what actually happens in those countries where there is so-called Communist rule today, it did not entirely explain the acceptance by certain types of people in different parts of the world.

It was finally suggested that to these people the faults that exist today probably seem the necessary steps, in themselves wrong and perhaps reprehensible, but steps that must be gone through before the desired goal could be reached.

One of the members of the group pointed out that we were not taking into consideration the differences in the characters of people throughout the world, and the fact that communism might never have an appeal to people in certain countries because bread might mean more to them than ideas. In other countries, however, the appeal of martyrdom for an ideal might be much more compelling than any financial success.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 12, 1955

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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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.