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On Receiving the Stalin Peace Award

This is the text of Mr. Fast's speech accepting the Stalin Peace Prize for 1953, which was presented to him at a reception on April 22 at the Hotel McAlpin in New York. The presentation was made by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, acting on behalf of the international jury which made the selection. As Dr. Du Bois stated, the jury wished to present the prize to Fast in person, but the U.S. State Department had refused the writer a visa. About 1,000 persons attended the presentation ceremony. Rev. William Howard Melish was chairman, and Paul Robeson, winner of the Stalin Peace Prize for 1952, took part in the proceedings.

The things one says at a moment like this can never be as meaningful as the occasion itself--and the far deeper implications it contains. I have been given a prize for contributing toward peace among the nations on this earth, and I am grateful, deeply moved, and very proud.

Yet it is the concept of the prize which is important, so much more important than the person who wins it. This prize is called the Stalin International Peace Award; and I would depart from all reality if I were to maintain, even here before so many friends, that either the prize or the name it bears is greatly honored by the men who govern my country. Quite the contrary is true, as you so well know; but I think you also know this--that peace is honored and beloved o millions of the American people, indeed, of almost all of them.

And thereby, the importance here in this land of the prize which I have just received. It is a peace prize; nothing can ever change that, and nothing will--and when, even for a moment, the tissue of lies and slander erected between this land of ours and the Soviet Union, is parted, is brushed aside, we see beyond this prize a monumental force for the peace of mankind.

I think this is such a moment, here at least, and I think that we here in this room can part that tissue, if only for a little while. I call it a tissue deliberately; for it is no iron curtain, no mighty stone wall, no impenetrable barrier that separates our world from the world of socialism. The time is past when such a separation can be made anywhere on this earth, and less than ever can it be made between the two great forces of this earth.

There have been some people, all too many, who have been crying out that we stand at the brink of the destruction of mankind and of the rich and beautiful civilization which mankind has created; and still others say this destruction is inevitable. I do not deny that these are grim and frightening times; but I cannot say that without adding that these are bright and splendid times. If we stand at the brink of destruction, we also stand at the brink of something else, at the brink of a new dawn, in which the human race, in all of its complex and fascinating difference, will come to the conclusion that it must live in a peaceful brotherhood that will include this multitude of difference. And it is my thought that we will choose to live together rather than to die together--my hope and the hope of all mankind.

I am not here today to argue these questions, to formulate foreign policy, to criticize foreign policy. I am here simply to receive a prize which is a peace prize. This prize, awarded to me and to many others by an international jury, originates in the Soviet Union. If I had no other cause for honoring the Soviet Union, I would honor it greatly and profoundly for giving prizes for peace.

I do not understand those people who say that a prize for peace is not a prize for peace. For such people, there is no beginning; and where there is no beginning, how can there be a conclusion in understanding? Yet we must have understanding. The burning question of the times in which we live is peaceful coexistence between our world and the socialist world, and that coexistence, if it is to be at all, must be based on understanding.

And there is ground for such coexistence--much ground. For all the threat implicit in atomic power, there is also implicit in it the realization that we have hardly scraped at the riches of our planet. There is not only enough for all; there is enough for untold thousands of generations to come. And what a power, what an incredible and mighty power these two separate worlds of ours would be if they were joined together in peaceful intercourse among the nations.

Yes, there would be wars to be fought, but wars that we would win, that mankind would win. We would war against disease, and wipe it from the face of the earth. We would war against old age and hunger and poverty. We would war against the desert and turn it into a garden. Yes, and we would war against time and space itself, for we are on the threshold of that ancient dream of man--that he will go out among the stars and touch them with his own hands.

We are not fools, we people, whatever land we live in; and I have never known people who were not in their great majority good and honest and hard-working. For a hundred generations, we have dreamed a great and beautiful dream--and now we are on the threshold of its realization. Of course, it is hard; but could anything so splendid, so large, yes, so heroic, not be hard?

We are people with children, and concerned for our children, for human life owes as great a debt to the future as it does to the past. Shall we tell our children that because the way toward peace was hard, we gave up the struggle and left them ashes for their inheritance?

I think not. I think we well fight for peace, and I think we will win peace--because when we win peace, we win all that mankind ever longed for.

Nor is this simply a dream. I know that there are evil men here in America who plan war and who plot war--and who leave no stone unturned in their efforts to keep the world in a state of crisis. But these evil men have set their faces against the lives and hopes of all mankind; and to them, not only the people of other lands, but the people of my own land, have said again and again,

"No! We do not want a war! We will live in peace!"

This is such a time, and for that reason, the presentation of this peace prize here in America has added significance. It means to us, who are Americans, that a challenge for peace has been made. We must accept that challenge, and either show that the millions of peace-loving Americans are of more consequence in this land than the atom-warlords--or else go against the hopes of all mankind and accept a burden of shame and horror as our lot for untold generations to come.

I do not think that we will accept such a burden of shame and horror; rather do I think that the American people will stand with the people of all the earth--against war and for peace.