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

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NEW YORK—The U.N. Assembly vote against admission of Red China has for a time made any further action on this question unnecessary. But with the vote 48 to 57 and 19 abstentions, one cannot help but feel that this is only a temporary settlement and that the problem will continue to be under consideration during the coming year. Yet this is only part of a larger problem that is coming up. That question is: How should we look upon the Communist nations who are the satellites of the Soviet Union or those, like Yugoslavia, who consider themselves free of Soviet domination but are still Communist states?

Take, for example, the matter of selling food to Tito and to Poland. We agreed, in spite of Administration annoyance over Tito's recent criticism of American foreign policy, to sell Yugoslavia half a million tons of wheat and 30,000 tons of edible oils. Although this is short of the amount asked for and will probably not fill all their needs, it certainly shows that we have decided to be on better terms with Yugoslavia than seemed probable immediately after Tito's speech.

Again, the State Department has announced agreement with Poland on the sale to that country of agricultural products of $44,000,000, despite the fact that Gomulka has also made violent attacks on the U.S.. Hence it might be said that we don't expect that giving American aid to these countries will necessarily make them more friendly. In such transactions, under Public Law 480, the purchaser pays for the goods in local currency, of which up to 75 percent is loaned back to the purchaser. The remainder is used to pay for local expenses of the U.S. embassy, to finance educational exchanges and to help develop markets for U.S. agricultural commodities. The purchaser usually repays the loans in local currency, but Poland must redeem in dollars all the zlotys not expended by the U.S. for the purposes stated above. Dollars are very difficult to come by and therefore they make every effort to use their local currencies as far as possible.

Some of us may wonder, as long as we are selling and being paid for our goods, why it matters to us whether these countries have been critical of our foreign policies or not. But we must remember that the Administration has to think about political repercussions at home. At the moment there is a rising tide of extreme right criticism. This was evidenced the other day, for example, in an attack on UNICEF by the DAR. Most of the criticism comes from the extreme right, which is playing the game of the Communists very openly even while insisting that they are opposed to Communism. Nevertheless, the Administration must take into account the thinking of all the citizens of the country. No matter how small the group, it behooves elected officials at least to give thought to the way they will react to any government policies.

Thus I believe American food surpluses should go to hungry people; and since women and children are rarely responsible for the political thinking in many Asian and African countries, I question whether food should be withheld for political reasons. Yet if I were in an elected position, I should doubtless feel strongly the responsibility of listening to everyone in the country—even to such unimportant people as our American Nazi leader Mr. Rockwell, who admitted at one time that his party consists of only eleven people. Though I disagree with him violently, I understand why elected officials must pay attention even to such unimportant minorities.

When all is said, however, I think the best American policy—especially where such things as food are concerned—would be to think out ways of using our surpluses to the maximum to help feed our own people, and then to sell or to give to the areas of the world where people are hungry, without regard to their political beliefs. I feel somehow that agricultural surpluses are gifts from the Lord and it is not up to us to decide what shall be the political ideology of hungry people.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 18, 1961

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.