All Commentary
Friday, January 1, 1954

The Fortnight

We opened a door to the Soviets and, after some fumbling, they walked in. At first, after Pres­ident Eisenhower’s ill-advised offer to pool atomic resources with Soviet Russia and anybody else, Moscow turned thumbs down on the proposal. If the Soviets had stuck to this rejection, we could have congratulated the Administration on its un­deserved luck. Now, however, the Russians have come through with a ponderous reply; in the wish­fully phrased report of the New York Times, it was “free from vituperation, was fairly well bal­anced and seemed to invite discussion.” Thus the four-power conference in Berlin, which the So­viets accepted but postponed to January 25, gives Moscow further opportunity to exercise its new tactics.

Ever since Stalin’s death the greatest danger has been that the Soviets would play shrewdly and softly, rather than bluntly and rambunctiously. Last April a cleverly-phrased Pravda editorial forecast a policy that would enable Moscow to play upon the gullibility of the West. Since then, the Soviets have seesawed between their old vio­lent reflexes and a new line of honey rather than vinegar. Their flattering words in the atom note calling Eisenhower an “outstanding military lead­er,” should warn the President that our adver­saries are sniffing the heady scent of our appease­ment. Secretary Dulles’ view that the note from Moscow offers “good ground for hope” is hardly encouraging.

France at last succeeded in picking a President, but Switzerland, with none of the French atmos­phere of crisis and name-calling, quietly chose a new President while the French balloting was go­ing on. His name, for the benefit of the curious, was Rodolphe Rubattel, but Americans are un­likely to see his name in the newspapers in 1954 any more than they have been seeing that of his predecessor, one Philippe Etter. Yet this coun­try with an anonymous President who serves for only a year is perhaps the most prosperous in Europe, and one of the best governed and most stable politically in the whole world. Americans have been told constantly in the last twenty years that they need a “strong” executive (a very am­biguous adjective), who will supply “leadership” by ruling Congress with a “firm” hand. The al­leged need for more and more concentration of power in the executive is surely not supported by the Swiss example.

With a retrospect of futile wrangling and propa­ganda tirades at Panmunjom and a prospect of more of the same at Berlin, it might be worthwhile for Mr. Dulles to take a look at the way Charles Evans Hughes cut short Communist methods of stalling and haggling. When the Soviet government in 1923 tried to draw the United States into a dis­cussion of recognition Mr. Hughes observed that there was really nothing to discuss. If the Soviet government wanted to compensate American citi­zens for stolen property and repudiated debts and stop propaganda for the overthrow of the American government, it could do so. Otherwise there was no occasion for talk. It is doubtful whether any states­man during the last three decades has found a better means of telling Moscow and Peiping to put up or shut up.

The butter support program is back in the news, with the Agriculture Department’s latest idea of selling butter as a cocoa butter substitute. No one knows for sure just how much or how little of a dent any such program can make in the gov­ernment’s huge butter stocks; by year’s end, the Commodity Credit Corporation held 249,629,000 pounds of butter—most of it purchased during the present Washington Administration at the rate of 66 ¼ cents per pound. This represents a total outlay of $165,379,000 of taxpayers’ money in­vested in a highly perishable commodity. Con­gress has until April 1 to find a way out of the butter glut. The country managed to get out from under the potato support plan after the ex­cesses of dumping and smuggling had been reached. An end to butter stockpiling is long overdue.

The nation’s cotton growers, who have just voted in favor of acreage control, ought to look at what happened to winter wheat. Just about the time the cotton men cast their votes overwhelmingly in favor of the Department of Agriculture’s 1954 production and marketing controls, reports from the wheat states showed that the effect of acreage controls had been nullified by favorable weather. Secretary of Agriculture Benson has proclaimed an allotment of 17,910,484 acres for cotton, cal­culated to produce a crop of 10,000,000 bales this year. That is a substantial cut. In 1953, the cotton lands under cultivation added up to 24,600,000 acres and produced an estimated crop of 16,300,000 bales. But the example in the wheat fields ought to teach all of us that the sun and the rain are quite unaware of crop control schemes. As long as the elements manage to avoid federal controls, the weather will cast its vote in favor of a free market.

If there is any perceptible benefit at all of the U.N., it is the free-wheeling discussion that some­times takes place in the Assembly. A recent illustra­tion was the statement of a Soviet delegate, G. P. Arkadyev, that he could tell the Assembly Economic Committee how many restaurants would open in the Soviet Union next year. Meant as a boast, this declaration exposed the Achilles heel of the planned economy. Anyone who had lived in the Soviet Union could have told the Economic Com­mittee, with still more assurance, that the quality of food and service in these restaurants would vary from drab, unappetizing mediocrity to un­speakable badness. A good restaurant is a product of individual genius and free competition. It will certainly never result by the decision of some government committee to open so-and-so many restaurants according to plan rather than need.

Albert Einstein has in the past exhibited a highly selective sense of injustice. His denunciations of Nazism, from the secure and profitable haven that we granted him among us, were many and eloquent. He has been too busy with differential equations, world government, and front organizations to issue any matching statements on Soviet slave camps, Moscow purge trials, or Korean germ warfare charges. His heart bled for the Rosenbergs, but not for the future victims of their treachery. Now Einstein is blossoming into a new role as expert on United States constitutional principles. Early in 1953 he publicly advised all “intellectuals” to refuse to testify before congressional committees, and to base their refusal on the First, not the Fifth, Amendment. A few weeks ago he specifically so advised Albert Shadowitz, who had been subpoenaed to appear before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Shadowitz followed the Einstein advice in refusing to answer whether he had been a Communist Party member while working on secret military projects at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds and elsewhere. We assume that the Senate will speedily initiate contempt proceedings for this flagrant defiance of our orderly and traditional processes of government. It would be in order to remind Dr. Einstein that his advice is base col­lusion in the commission of a crime against the government to which he owes his safety, his freedom, his good fortune, and his life.

For some years Angus Cameron, a man with a list of “front” affiliations that must have rivaled Paul Robeson’s, was editor-in-chief of an old established publishing house. In this post he pulled off one of the slickest jobs of cultural infiltration on the record. Book after book that toed the party line came off the presses of this reputable firm. Now that this job has been thoroughly exposed in a documented survey by Counterattack and Mr. Cameron’s connection with the publishing house has ended, he has gone into publishing partnership with Albert Kahn, a well-known specialist in pre­senting the Communist viewpoint in the guise of “anti-fascism” (The Great Conspiracy, High Trea­son, Sabotage). Announced publications of the new firm are exactly what one would expect, attacking Senator McCarthy with fine fervor and purporting to expose “the atom spy hoax” and to tell the “truth” about the Rosenbergs. This is a welcome sailing under plain colors. It was different when Cameron could put the imprint of an old and worthy publishing house (which has radically re­vised its policy since his departure) on the same kind of stuff.

A sensitive correspondent has described to us the shock of finding his favorite hat shop picketed by the United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers. He pondered the fact that a retailer was being pun­ished for a dispute that involved only the union and the manufacturer. “Walking down Fifth Avenue,” our correspondent writes, “I had the eerie feeling of being followed. After all, I was wearing one of those hats that all the fuss was about; and wasn’t it possible that a really eager-beaver picket might have decided to fall into step behind me?”

“Izvestia, the Soviet government newspaper, an­nounced in tomorrow’s edition that Beria and his co-defendants had confessed at their trial to the charges against them and that ‘the highest degree of capital punishment—shooting—was carried out.’ “(From a United Press dispatch) To keep the time-schedule quite clear:

1. Beria was shot tomorrow.
2. He confessed the day after.
3. The trial was held next week.
4. His chief crimes were committed in 1955.

This Soviet time sequence is perfectly logical. If the purpose of punishment is prevention, it is senseless to wait until after a man has committed his crime before shooting him.

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