Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day: June 22-30

June 27, 1958

“HYDE PARK—Since it is impossible to get anything into the Soviet newspapers except their government’s own story and explanation, I suppose the Soviet people have to believe that the United States government inspired all the demonstrations at Soviet Embassies over the execution of Imre Nagy and his associates.

One can hardly expect, nevertheless, that the people here in the U.S. will feel any happier as they read the facts that have been omitted in the Soviet press.

The execution of the Hungarian leaders, which may or may not have been inspired by the Soviet Union, was, however, a very serious mistake for the U.S.S.R. Perhaps it was not such a serious mistake as concerning the Soviets’ relations with their own people, who are kept from communication with the outside world, but it certainly was a mistake in its effect upon the uncommitted areas of the world.

These countries are bound to realize that when leaders of a movement against a government in power must be executed, that government is uncertain of the control of the people. And they will understand, too, that the mere fact of the executions contradicts the Soviets’ own story that the Hungarian uprising was not really a people’s revolt.

The action of the Kadar government in these executions shows that both it and the Soviet government underestimated the change that has come over the world conscience.

This leads me to something I have been wanting to say about the recent House Un-American Activities hearings in New York involving such personalities in the entertainment field as directors, actors, musicians, etc.

Because they refused to answer questions concerning past affiliations with the Communist party and took refuge in the First and Fifth Amendments, several of them lost their jobs.

I wonder whether the public realizes that many people really believe that nobody has a right to ask anyone about his political affiliations, past or present? We are not at war.

In these cases there was no question of any action to overthrow our government, so the question is based on one’s right to hold opinions and beliefs contrary to the usually accepted pattern. Down through history this has been the American citizen’s right, and it still is his right to claim, under either of these Constitutional guarantees, the refusal to answer.

In addition, the pattern followed in questioning a person who is willing to answer consists of asking him to divulge the names of those who were Communist party members with him. In wartime this may be necessary, but at present in the entertainment field it is nonsense.

I was taught as a child that to be a tattle-tale and thereby get other children into trouble was a despicable thing, that it was better to bear unfair punishment than to tell on a friend…

We do things in wartime because then the protection of our country comes first, but in peacetime we first must protect the liberty of the individual in thinking, speaking and changing his mind.”

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