The Daily Worker - May 24, 1956
The Current Scene
The Tides of Tomorrow
A mighty force is alive and in motion on this earth of ours – and it does not require too much wisdom and perception to be aware of it. In former periods, this section or that section of the family of man shook itself awake and took a tentative step into the future; today, it is all of mankind, with no corner of the most remote island apart from the motion.
The world is shaking itself loose from the darkness and misery of pre-history, and in a very profound sense its true history is beginning. This is not happening smoothly, as trains run on schedule, not evenly, not politely, not daintily – but with all the vast convulsive force and confusion that such a giant effort would of necessity entail. Yet the convulsion and the confusion cannot serve to hide the salient facts, the liberation of millions from the bondage of colonialism, the ending of the periodic menace of famine that stalked the world for so many centuries, the transition to social forms of economy, and above all the growth of a peace movement beyond the dreams of any man even a brief generation ago.
In all of these trends, we are conscious of a world unity never known before; and I think it is this fierce and unshakable unity that has caused so many American commentators to brood about the increasing fiasco of our foreign policy. Now I am probably the last person in these United States to whom the government would turn for advice concerning its foreign policy, yet I think I might suggest more reasonable answers for its failure than many another whose advice is eagerly sought. Nor would my own explanation be unduly complex. I would simply point out that when a river is in flood, no one can swim upstream, regardless of his strength.
* * *
I was brought to these reflections by an apparently unrelated fact, a story current at this writing of the government's latest attempt to seize the Social Security pittance of a few aged Communists. The story itself is wretched and degrading beyond belief, the mightiest state on earth doing everything in its power to deprive a handful of people of what is rightfully theirs – and doing so because they hold political beliefs to which this state is not receptive.
* * *
I will not go into the details of this contemptible matter, for I propose here to discuss something else, the relationship of such an incident to the world in general and to the world's picture of America. Possibly Mr. Eisenhower knows nothing about it, and it is just as likely that Mr. Dulles would regard it as an insignificant detail, unworthy of his attention; but the ultimate truth of the matter is that this small incident sums up foreign policy as practiced by the United States – and explains its failure as well.
For this petty, dirty and spiteful bit of business is the common face of the United States in the world today. Is it not in itself an insane action! I have no doubt that to many people in the government, it appears wholly logical and correct; but to the world, it appears both insane and degrading.
* * *
An anti-Communist citizen of West Germany asked me, "Why is your government unable to comprehend what plain people think and how they will react?" He was abusing the left, which scored victories it never fought for – as he put it – and had just explained how the last shreds of respect for America disappeared from West Germany when the atomic cannon were brought in. He was not a very pleasant person, and he and I had nothing in common except a mutual desire to live; but this desire established a relationship, and he was able to extend that relationship without geographical limit. The only exception was the United States.
I speak not of our people but of what passes for leadership; and the two are no more in agreement than our government is in agreement with the people of mankind. Anyone who has made even a cursory study of the compulsive factor in psychotics cannot help be reminded of it as he watches the present pre-election campaign unfold. Harriman, who the wise money tells us will be the candidate, since only he can afford the price of a major campaign, sings one tune – war and war and war. People say to me, "Does he want to lose the elections?" Is it fixed?" The people have their simple logic, and for them there is only one issue, peace. They too, in their day-to-day work and living, are a part of the tides of tomorrow, and they will not allow Harriman or any other candidate to change their outlook.
But as far as the people of the world are concerned, the government in power is as compulsively blind as Harriman is here at home. It is one thing for Dulles and the New York Times to make their outrageously crass rationale of the announced Russian army manpower reduction; but it is quite another matter to convince the people of mankind. Russia is moving with the tide, and we are moving against it. We have developed a murderous patter – H-bomb tests, guided missiles, long range bombers, atomic submarines – and we repeat this crazy song over and over. The world changes, but we do not change or give heed to the change. We sing our death song endlessly – and inevitably the gorge of mankind rises.
It is eleven years now that the men in Washington have discoursed about the "Communist enemy." But the eleven years of the record have proved that not the Communists, but the government itself is its own worst enemy – an insane, implacable enemy that they seem powerless to resist. It is much as if they, the rulers of America, were sworn and dedicated to the defeat of America. For in large incident as in small, the direction is the same; and when they could be making millions of adherents throughout the world by explaining the positive welfare aspects of the Social Security System, they are instead forced, by their own blind stupidity, to explain the petty injustice of depriving a few aging Communists of the benefits of that system.