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Way to Peace
Thomas Friedman

USA & Peace


Henry A. Wallace: The Way to Peace

(September 12, 1946)


When the United States were still mighty by all meanings, Wallace gave this speech in the New York Madison Square Garden. One week later he was forced to resign by President Harry S. Truman.


Mr. Chairman, the gamblers say you people here tonight don’t mean business. They say it doesn’t mean anything when the Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the American Labor Party – all three – are behind Jim Mead. They say you’re blowing off steam here tonight, and that you won’t get out to vote on November fifth.

With their cold, steely eyes, and their long bankrolls, they say this is just emotion, and that you won’t work.

We’ll find out on November fifth whether you really did mean business, whether you really did get out to vote. Because the votes for Jim Mead are there.

Yes, the Senate will miss Jim Mead. He voted for the New Deal Roosevelt legislation. But Albany needs him to carry on the tradition of Smith and Roosevelt and Lehman.

Those steely-eyed gamblers look with somewhat more favor on Herbert Lehman, but they don’t give him much better than an even chance. Yes, we need Lehman, with his grasp on New York problems, his grasp on United States problems, his grasp on United Nations problems. We need his great heart; we need his great mind. We need him as a member of the United States Senate.

Above all, we need the victory of both men, because New York in 1946 is so important for the nation in 1948; and a victory for Mead and Lehman may make all the difference between a world which, on the one hand, would mean imperialism and war, and on the other hand would mean peace and productivity for the Common Man.

Tonight, above everything else, I want to talk about peace – and how to get peace. Never have the common people of all lands so longed for peace. And yet, never in a time of comparative peace have the common people so greatly feared war.

Up till now peace has been negative and unexciting. War has been positive and exciting. Far too often, hatred and fear, intolerance and deceit have had the upper hand over love and confidence, trust and joy. Far too often, the law of nations has been the law of the jungle; and the constructive spiritual forces of the Lord have bowed to the destructive forces of Satan.

During the past year or so, the significance of peace has been increased immeasurably by the atom bomb, guided missiles, and air-planes which soon will travel as fast as sound. Make no mistake about it – another war would hurt the United States many times as much as the last war. We cannot rest in the assurance that we invented the atom bomb – and therefore that this agent of destruction will work best for us. He who trusts in the atom bomb will sooner or later perish by the atom bomb – or something worse.

I say this as one who steadfastly backed preparedness throughout the thirties. We have no use for namby-pamby pacifism. But we must realize that modern inventions have now made peace the most exciting thing in the world – and we should be willing to pay a just price for peace. If modern war can cost us four hundred billion dollars, we should be willing and happy to pay much more for peace. But certainly, the cost of peace is to be measured not in dollars but in the hearts and minds of men.

The price of peace – for us and for every nation in the world – is the price of giving up prejudice, hatred, fear, and ignorance.

Let’s get down to cases here at home.

First we have prejudice, hatred, fear, and ignorance of certain races. The recent mass lynching in Georgia was not merely the most unwarranted, brutal act of mob violence in the United States in recent years; it was also an illustration of the kind of prejudice that makes war inevitable.

Hatred breeds hatred. The doctrine of racial superiority produces a desire to get even on the part of its victims. If we are to work for peace in the rest of the world, we here in the United States must eliminate racism from our unions, our business organizations, our educational institutions, and our employment practices. Merit alone must be the measure of man.

Second, in payment for peace, we must give up prejudice, hatred, fear, and ignorance in the economic world. This means working earnestly, day after day, for a larger volume of world trade. It means helping undeveloped areas of the world to industrialize themselves with the help of American technical assistance and loans.

We should welcome the opportunity to help along the most rapid possible industrialization in Latin America, China, India, and the Near East. For as the productivity of these peoples increases, our exports will increase.

We all remember the time, not so long ago, when the high tariff protectionists blindly opposed any aid to the industrialization of Canada. But look at our exports to Canada today. On a per capita basis our Canadian exports are seven times greater than our exports to Mexico.

I supported the British loan of almost four billion dollars because I knew that without this aid in the rehabilitation of its economy, the British government would have been forced to adopt totalitarian trade methods and economic warfare of a sort which would have closed the markets of much of the world to American exports.

For the welfare of the American people and the world it is even more important to invest four billion dollars in the industrialization of undeveloped areas in the so-called backward nations, thereby promoting the long-term stability that comes from an ever-increasing standard of living. This would not only be good politics and good morals. It would be good business.

The United States is the world’s great creditor nation. And low tariffs by creditor nations are a part of the price of peace. For when a great creditor demands payment, and at the same time, adopts policies which make it impossible for the debtors to pay in goods - the first result is the intensification of depression over large areas of the world; and the final result is the triumph of demagogues who speak only the language of violence and hate.

Individual Republicans may hold enlightened views - but the Republican Party as a whole is irrevocably committed to tariff and trade policies which can only mean worldwide depression, ruthless economic warfare, and eventual war. And if the Republicans were in power in the United States today, intelligent people all over the world would fear that once more we would be headed straight for boom, bust, and worldwide chaos.

I noticed in the papers recently that Governor Dewey doesn’t like my prophecies. I said weeks before the last election - and said it repeatedly - that Franklin Roosevelt would carry thirty-six states and have a popular majority af three million. Of course, Mr. Dewey didn’t alike that one. I say now - as I have said repeatedly - that Republican foreign economic policies carried into action would mean disaster for the nation and the world. Mr. Dewey won’t like that one either.

The Republican Party is the party of economic nationalism and political isolation – and as such is as anachronistic as the dodo and as certain to disappear. The danger is that before it disappears it may enjoy a brief period of power during which it can do irreparable damage to the United States and the cause of world peace.

Governor Dewey has expressed himself as favoring an alliance of mutual defense with Great Britain as the key to our foreign policy. This may sound attractive because we both speak the same language and many of our customs and traditions have the same historical background. Moreover, to the military men, the British Isles are our advanced air base against Europe.

Certainly we like the British people as individuals. But to make Britain the key to our foreign policy would be, in my opinion, the height of folly. We must not let the reactionary leadership of the Republican Party force us into that position. We must not let British balance-of-power manipulations determine whether and when the United States gets into war.

Make no mistake about it – the British imperialistic policy in the Near East alone, combined with Russian retaliation, would lead the United States straight to war unless we have a clearly defined and realistic policy of our own.

Neither of these two great powers wants war now, but the danger is that whatever their intentions may be, their current policies may eventually lead to war. To prevent war and insure our survival in a stable world, it is essential that we look abroad through our own American eyes and not through the eyes of either the British Foreign Office or a pro-British or anti-Russian press.

In this connection, I want one thing clearly understood. I am neither anti-British nor pro-British - neither anti-Russian nor pro-Russian. And just two days ago, when President Truman read these words, he said that they represented the policy of his administration.

I plead for an America vigorously dedicated to peace – just as I plead for opportunities for the next generation throughout the world to enjoy the abundance which now, more than ever before, is the birthright of man.

To achieve lasting peace, we must study in detail just how the Russian character was formed – by invasions of Tartars, Mongols, Germans, Poles, Swedes, and French; by the czarist rule based on ignorance, fear, and force; by the intervention of the British, French, and Americans in Russian affairs from 1919 to 1921; by the geography of the huge Russian land mass situated strategically between Europe and Asia; and by the vitality derived from the rich Russian soil and the strenuous Russian climate. Add to all this the tremendous emotional power which Marxism and Leninism gives to the Russian leaders – and then we can realize that we are reckoning with a force which cannot be handled successfully by a “Get tough with Russia” policy. “Getting tough” never bought anything real and lasting – whether for schoolyard bullies or businessmen or world powers. The tougher we get, the tougher the Russians will get.

Throughout the world there are numerous reactionary elements which had hoped for Axis victory – and now profess great friendship for the United States. Yet, these enemies of yesterday and false friends of today continually try to provoke war between the United States and Russia. They have no real love of the United States. They only long for the day when the United States and Russia will destroy each other.

We must not let our Russian policy be guided or influenced by those inside or outside the United States who want war with Russia. This does not mean appeasement.

We most earnestly want peace with Russia – but we want to be met halfway. We want cooperation. And I believe that we can get cooperation once Russia understands that our primary objective is neither saving the British Empire nor purchasing oil in the Near East with the lives of American soldiers. We cannot allow national oil rivalries to force us into war. All of the nations producing oil, whether inside or outside of their own boundaries, must fulfill the provisions of the United Nations Charter and encourage the development of world petroleum reserves so as to make the maximum amount of oil available to all nations of the world on an equitable peaceful basis – and not on the basis of fighting the next war.

For her part, Russia can retain our respect by cooperating with the United Nations in a spirit of open-minded and flexible give-and-take.

The real peace treaty we now need is between the United States and Russia. On our part, we should recognize that we have no more business in the political affairs of eastern Europe than Russia has in the political affairs of Latin America, western Europe, and the United States. We may not like what Russia does in eastern Europe. Her type of land reform, industrial expropriation, and suppression of basic liberties offends the great majority of the people of the United States.

(Audience hissing.)

Yes, I’m talking about people outside of New York City when I talk about that, and I think I know about people outside of New York City. Any Gallup poll will reveal it – we might as well face the facts.

But whether we like it or not the Russians will try to socialize their sphere of influence just as we try to democratize our sphere of influence. This applies also to Germany and Japan. We are striving to democratize Japan and our area of control in Germany, while Russia strives to socialize eastern Germany.

As for Germany, we all must recognize that an equitable settlement, based on a unified German nation, is absolutely essential to any lasting European settlement. This means that Russia must be assured that never again can German industry be converted into military might to be used against her – and Britain. Western Europe and the United States must be certain that Russia’s German policy will not become a tool of Russian design against western Europe.

The Russians have no more business in stirring up native communists to political activity in western Europe, Latin America, and the United States than we have interfering in the politics of eastern Europe and Russia.

Now, when I say that, I realize that the danger of war is much less from communism than it is from imperialism, whether it be of the United States or England – or from fascism, the remnants of fascism, which may be in Spain or Argentina.

Let’s get this straight, regardless of what Mr. Taft or Mr. Dewey may say, if we can overcome the imperialistic urge in the Western world, I’m convinced there’ll be no war.

We know what Russia is up to in eastern Europe, for example, and Russia knows what we are up to. But we cannot permit the door to be closed against our trade in eastern Europe any more than we can in China. I’m Secretary of Commerce, and I’m interested in trade. And I want the biggest market we can get. I want China, I want eastern Europe, as places where we can trade. But, at the same time, we have to recognize that the Balkans are closer to Russia than to us, and that Russia cannot permit either England or the United States to dominate the politics of that area.

China is a special case and although she holds the longest frontier in the world with Russia, the interests of world peace demand that China remain free from any sphere of influence, either politically or economically.

(Audience hissing.)

And I know of my own positive knowledge that that was in Roosevelt’s heart and mind, most specifically in the spring of 1944 – because I talked it over with him in detail ...

(Again hissing.)

Mr. Truman read that particular sentence, and he approved it...

All right – you’ve already passed a good resolution on this, and I understand you’re forwarding it. That’s enough.

We insist that the door to trade and economic development opportunities be left wide open in China as in all the world. However, the open door to trade and opportunities for economic development in China are meaningless unless there is a unified and peaceful China – built on the cooperation of the various groups in that country and based on a hands-off policy of the outside powers.

We are still arming to the hilt. Our excessive expenses for military purposes are the chief cause of our unbalanced budget. If taxes are to be lightened we must have the basis of a real peace with Russia – a peace that cannot be broken by extremist propagandists.

Russian ideas of social-economic justice are going to govern nearly a third of the world. Our ideas of free-enterprise democracy will govern much of the rest. The two ideas will endeavor to prove which can deliver the most satisfaction to the common man in their respective areas of political dominance. But by mutual agreement, this competition should be put on a friendly basis. Let the results of the two systems speak for themselves.

We should close our ears to those among us who would have us believe that Russian communism and our free enterprise system cannot live, one with another, in a profitable and productive peace.

Under friendly peaceful competition the Russian world and the American world will gradually become more alike. The Russians will be forced to grant more and more of the personal freedom,  and we shall become more and more absorbed with the problems of social-economic justice.

(Audience hissing.)

You don’t like the word ‘forced’? I say that in the process of time they will find it profitable enough and opportune to grant more and more of the personal freedoms. Put it any way you want. That’s the course of history just the same.

Russia must be convinced that we are not planning for war against her and we must be certain that Russia is not carrying on territorial expansion or world domination through native communists faithfully following every twist and turn in the Moscow party line. But in this competition, we must insist on an open door for trade throughout the world. There will always be an ideological conflict – but that is no reason why diplomats cannot work out a basis for both systems to live safely in the world side by side.

Once the fears of Russia and the United States Senate have been allayed by practical regional political reservations, I am sure that concern over the veto power would be greatly diminished. Then the United Nations would have a really great power in those areas which are truly international and not regional. In the worldwide, as distinguished from the regional, field, the armed might of the United Nations should be so great as to make opposition useless. Only the United Nations should have atomic bombs and its military establishment should give special emphasis to air power. It should have control of the strategically located air bases with which the United States and Britain have encircled the world. And not only should individual nations be prohihited from manufacturing atomic bombs, guided missiles, and military aircraft for bombing purposes, but no nation should be allowed to spend on its military establishment more than perhaps 15 percent of its budget.

Practically and immediately, we must recognize that we are not yet ready for World Federation. Realistically, the most we can hope for now is a safe reduction in military expense and a long period of peace based on mutual trust between the Big Three.

During this period, every effort should be made to develop as rapidly as possible a body of international law based on moral principles and not on the Machiavellian principles of deceit, force, and distrust – which, if continued, will lead the modern world to rapid disintegration.

In brief, as I see it today, the World Order is bankrupt - and the United States, Russia, and England are the receivers. These are the hard facts of power politics on which we have to build a functioning, powerful United Nations and a body of international law. And as we build, we must develop fully the doctrine of the rights of small peoples as contained in the United Nations Charter. This law should ideally apply as much to Indonesians and Greeks as to Bulgarians and Poles – but practically, the application may be delayed until both British and Russians discover the futility of their methods.

In the full development of the rights of small nations, the British and Russians can learn a lesson from the Good Neighbor policy of Franklin Roosevelt. For under Roosevelt, we in the Western Hemisphere built a workable system of regional internationalism that fully protected the sovereign rights of every nation – a system of multilateral action that immeasurably strengthened the whole of world order.

In the United States an informed public opinion will be all-powerful. Our people are peace-minded. But they often express themselves too late – for events today move much faster than public opinion. The people here, as everywhere in the world, must be convinced that another war is not inevitable. And through mass meetings such as this, and through persistent pamphleteering, the people can be organized for peace – even though a large segment of our press is propagandizing our people for war in the hope of scaring Russia. And we who look on this war-with-Russia talk as criminal foolishness must carry our message direct to the people – even though we may be called communists because we dare to speak out.

I believe that peace – the kind of a peace I have outlined tonight – is the basic issue, both in the congressional campaign this fall and right on through the presidential election in 1948. How we meet this issue will determine whether we live not in “one world” or “two worlds” – but whether we live at all.