JULY 31, 1959
HYDE PARK—I wonder how the Soviet Union would feel if we suddenly went beyond the mild individual criticisms of the Soviet Trade Exhibition in the New York Coliseum and insisted that, in this exhibit, they are trying to create a false impression by presenting an unfair picture of conditions in the U.S.S.R.
For this is what they are doing concerning the United States exhibition in Moscow.
Although the Soviets have praise for our automobiles, even the wonderful photographic display of the "Family of Man" has come in for some criticism. I don't happen to be an advocate of rock `n' roll—I think it will pass, just as many other fads of our young people—but the photograph they have singled out for criticism is not of rock `n' roll. And, for that matter, I think you can find just as abandon-type dancing in the Soviet Union itself and in Scandinavian countries.
We could well point out some of the shortcomings in the Soviet exhibit in New York, but I hope we will not, for I disapprove completely of always trying to copy the Soviets.
The Soviets must fear the good impression our exhibit is making in Moscow or they would not go to such lengths to deride it and to show photographs of Soviet achievements outside of it. The number of visitors it has attracted shows the interest in it, and this is probably what has disturbed the Soviet government and press.
I can agree heartily with the Soviets' criticism that the mechanical things in our display should be in operation. That was one of my criticisms of the U.S. exhibit at the Brussels World Fair.
It leaves me cold to see machinery that is not working, and I imagine others viewing our Moscow exhibit will feel the same way.
If the Soviet government is trying to tell its people that living standards are not as pictured in our exhibit, this is probably true to the extent that we do not show some of our bad living conditions. But these conditions also exist in the Soviet Union.
Of course, the mere fact that we have unemployment in this country always will seem like a very bad sign to the Russians. How, they ask, can we progress when there is unemployment? To them, the idea that anybody cannot find work is strange indeed.
The average Russian can see in the GUM department store, the one large store in the Soviet Union, many things on display. But you do not find the Russians buying in the quantity there that you do in the department stores of our cities.
The Soviet commentary on our art is to be expected, since the government does not permit Russian artists to create any type of modern art. It must deal with real life.
I do not hold any great brief for most modern art, because I do not like it, but I cherish the feeling that we can grow in appreciation of whatever is good art, whether it is traditional or not.
I hope we will be polite and appreciative of what we can learn from the Soviet exhibit. If we think they are merely putting on a show, let's not worry about it, for this is just being human.