thumbnail of People talk back; Can we live in peace with the Soviet Union?, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
It was like all that noise made surely Mr. Bevan that no circumstance with the people's revolution be recognized. The question was recognition of the male state son government now before you. You spoke of the inevitable drives for a social revolution in the Far East. There is a difference between that and the recognition of a government with which in effect we are at war because that government is for supporting our enemies. For example in Korea I think it is extremely difficult got the moment for the United States to recognize the people as a government of China. Western Americans are being killed by Chinese troops in North Korea. I think us because that's correct but nevertheless just look at it from the point of view of the Chinese for the moment and they can assistance is being given to Shan Kai shek Shan Cai shack is the kind of rage on the mainland on the Chinese mainland. The effort seems to me that we've got into a complete Cordie sat there now and I think it's a very very great mistake. You raise this question at the point at which the policy of the Western
powers has gone wrong in dealing with the Soviet Union. Now are you satisfied or do you feel you want to do. No I'm afraid I haven't yet been and I don't know that you would care to say there was a precise point Mr. Bevan but perhaps you could narrow it down in a period of years I mean where we were wrong about Berlin were we wrong about NATO were we right you know what we did we make the first conscious directed mistake I don't believe that you can share that at any given moment that any particular decisive act you can lead us in a very wrong direction. I don't believe we were wrong about but I will. And we weren't wrong about native way. Now if you see if you can you can in any way I didn't give an inch you may say was not this justified. Of course you can justify it if you leave only if all of the previous steps out of account and any given moment you can justify that particular to demean our intentions were evil. Mr Bevan or we lacked something of a social ethic in
approaching the problems in terms of the military defense of your own. I don't really believe that national and national policies can be spoken of in described in terms of personal emotions. I don't believe that a nation's intentions are necessary lever as far as I can see. If I made almost paraphrase Mark and I was an American. Nations have no intensions only have interests. Then you're well Mr Bevan it seems to me that we haven't been able to pinpoint any particular place where we might have gone wrong and we certainly haven't found any ill intention on anybody's part. But roughly speaking it appears that our policy that is the policy of the Western nations for the in recent years has been one of containment of the Soviet Union. And a building up strength for the purpose of containing the Soviet Union. My question is this Do you agree that that has been generally speaking a wise policy and that
it is wisest to approach the Soviet Union and to deal with it from a position of strength. I suppose it is the Soviet Union would say the same thing about the other powers. Every nation says. It always shares we cannot niggling and you go shoot except out of strength. What it means by all to strengthen no one has yet defined whether it is going to be stronger than the other one in which the other one will feel afraid. Then you can't have negotiation maken changing has been and I'm rather surprised I haven't been asked that question. As to whether we have in fact arms sufficiently Are we were not I mean I remember. Yeah that's already a big deal likely to get you there but because it seems to me that this is a very annoyed by the whole thing that we started off saying we want to be stronger in order to negotiate out of strength. Well that really brings us to the Major and final part of our discussion. That is what you
feel we ought to do. Granted we are where we are. When I wonder if you'd like to know what I want to know is on what specific concrete issues does Mr. Bevan believe it's necessary to reach agreement with the Soviet Union before we can live together in the same world without a war. And I question I would ask might I add necessary and possible. Quite a year would you have if you had of what is possible. See you can start off just standing by what you may be able to do. We have to remember that the whole future of mankind may be involved in this and they're going to try. It is better to talk than to fight. And I believe that for that you must try and come to some agreement with the Soviet Union about Germany. I don't believe I had met all the difficulties you have in very great difficulties Indeed it may be that it is so but you do not see oh yes but a lot to say about jail. You must find out the Sandinista about cost Well we spent 99 days in Paris and we must have been trying to find some agreement.
We got no words to tell you how to represent to the conference. Yes but didn't you see I have not been paired to believe that international image can be realized by throwing charges about. I admit that the Soviet Union are very difficult people to negotiate with very difficult indeed but still try. I believe that the year of the Soviet Union and now we're engaged in a Menorah to try and persuade the German people as a whole that they really want German unity on it and Western nations are preventing Germany from having it because the Western nations are more anxious about the 12 divisions than they are. That is what they say I don't set myself down they are about German unity. I think that argument must be taken away from the Soviet Union. I think we must become advocates of German unity Democratic
unity even if it means abandoning the divisions and even for the means of battling Burleson as a preliminary to a discussion. Oh no certainly not but I do not understand the Soviet units put that forward. You think the Soviet Union might be willing to pay the price of a free and independent Germany to keep Germany from being rearmed. No I believe that I dismembered Germany. Here's a hot corner in the center of your love to keep on burning at the edges and unity is established. And I therefore do not believe that the trail of divisions is worthwhile if we have to pay the price of a permanent German discontent. Are there other areas where you would say we should begin. Should there be a Middle East settlement in which the Soviet participated. You know of course we are in a round of conjecture. You're asking me a very large number of questions and wishing the whole world and involving all kinds of diplomatic
maneuvers and dad to marches and every day I would suggest myself in the Middle East. There yours are a profitable field for cooperation with and also a dangerous field. And yes we do cooperate day why not with the Soviet Union. But I want to know what are your steps. Say you initiate. Let us assume you are in the power Mr Bevan. You initiate the discussions you would like to have with the Soviet Union. What do you propose proposing to now this is a fair question What would you do if you were in power. Yeah just quite simply if you were in power the situation would not be the same. Right now we can see if you had if you had a different kind of government in Great Britain how would you be able about depression situation all of the present situation would not be that situation if you were in fact Oh I think it might
not bear question. So when you're not happy I'm not happy about that. Match Mr Bevan if he have the authority to initiate discussions what do you do. I already indicated a number of things that I would do. Where would you begin Mr Bevan just to take one going. Well first of all I would try and see whether it is not possible to beat the deadlock in Korea. We've been trying for months must have been a good bet you but the fact of the matter is that in the discussions between the North Koreans and with the Chinese there has not been present an issue which is never censure to be that if a deadlock is to be book what is that issue. Championship for most. Shankar check I do not suggest not this stage that from 0 0 should be handed over to the Chinese although that was a Macon part of what gives us the right to hand for most over
to China. Mr. Modi does not I did not see it from order to belong to China it was the American administration who was taken from Japan in 1910 I think to be quite precise motive by the Japanese are we to send armies against Chiang Kai shek door but you are did you want to stop sending Assistant to shank a ship I believe I am correct in saying that you have sent moment more. I decisions to Shanghai share and the whole of pointer systems in Asia. Well you know well that's two things isn't it Mr Bevan I mean if you say four point four systems all by itself you may be right but if you add all the point four type programs in the amounts that we have allowed under the counterpart funds I think you would be wrong. I'm talking with the Far East. Yes I'm talking about the Far East too. However let me get back to the other thing that you were just saying and that is that the business of Chiang Kai shek Now it may be a point that we should take up. But at the moment. In fact they are deadlocked over the question the prisoners and I know back no I don't agree with that.
I don't agree with deadlocked over it what do you think of the deadline over I said I think that these are incidental questions and the major question is settled they disappear. I think the major issue is the fact that the the Chinese government are feeling and feel uncertain. And they they feel that at any town they come to have a new and revolutionary movement may start. They think for example at Chiang Kai shek has no hope of gaining the mainland and national served while world war begins when small or other third world war starts and then he would take advantage of it by its own admission the Chinese government has killed two million of followers of Chiang Kai shek and China since made the turn to power. Don't you think that has pretty well. But sure the Chinese government stability without raising the issue of Chiang Kai shek returning to the mainland. You know I shouldn't have thought Sure. The fact of the matter is and I think we ought to recognize it by now. But the fact that the America that the Chinese people whose government was
established by force there's no reason why we shouldn't recognise it. It was established by a revolutionary act. So was America. But we're not sure what with China might look like but at the end they can nation which established by revolution. Well I we done a fairly good thorough job because the only way to Mars is the duration. We promised earlier we'd let Mr. Bevan get onto a topic that he thought we thought of much sooner namely the question of rearmament. I know well Mr. Bevan we've spoken about such things as containment of the Soviet Union. We haven't asked the question of whether you consider the atomic bomb in the rearming of the west of the Terra to the Soviet Union. But I like to have some comment on those questions now particularly on the question that you yourself raised. What should be the level of rearmament in this and other countries what should be our attitude toward Riyadh as we approach the Soviet Union on the various questions that have been discussed here.
Well it's fairly obvious isn't it that we started off in nine thousand nine hundred fifty one thousand one hundred fifty one with with far too ambitious a program. You mean the Western powers generally Austin Powers generally that is now. I think admitting to the Chinese invasion of Korea whatever was a recent fact was a we started off with far too ambitious here program which we hadn't succeeded in carrying out not even the United States of America partly due to the Soviet attempt to blockade Berlin surely was no in any case whatever with the reason we did not in fact carry out every Armin programme and no reason why we didn't was because the impact on economies was too great. America for example House extended health program True to form and a half years from now. That's why we have had to extend our single member an extension of a program over a larger number of years is a reduction in the program. In these days a decision of reasonable people that is the easy decision.
Ah but it was a decision to had to modify and then a vision of the program. Daniel are you satisfied with this question on re Arma death. Well Mr Bevan says the program was too ambitious he's seems to be speaking and economics that it was too ambitious for they economic capacities of the countries concerned. What he said for a moment whether it was too ambitious in relation to the problem of potential aggression from outside of the if if we fear if we really fear the wall last year of this year the program wasn't ambitious enough. You feel it go betweens who's doing it of course you did. But I will view was that there was no such fear. I'm not deaf when the program was far too large which has now been admitted to what many say that was the American view. Musta been there was no fear of war surely pronouncements from the White House as well as the Pentagon.
As you know I didn't say I didn't say you had no fear well but I say there was no didn't feel the war. You say you didn't have it but now Division is now being confirmed. But in point of fact it was a wrong diagnosis so the international situation. I raise you now to the belief that the aggression in Korea was a direct evidence of Russian military offensive. Yes what not the failure of your mint program possibly incited the Soviet Union to further aggression in terms of the original program has failed. It crashed in terms of the original program. It is hard to be substantially modified. Furthermore this also has been admitted that it is no it is not a good way an effective way to defend yourself against Soviet intentions. If they are evil to lower the standard of life of your own people reduced to just one final question for me was granted. Yes Mr Bevan if I understand you correctly when we if we don't arm if we cut we armament both Britain and America will
have this extra money either to raise a standard living of their own be particular in Britain or in the underdeveloped areas. Now it's unlikely that you will find as much as 500 million pounds a year to go to the underdeveloped areas from your own country alone and that in itself considering that first of all what you do is raise the population. Well I have really effect of lowering and immediately raising the standard of living in the underdeveloped areas if you lower the standard of living your danger of communism increases and doesn't decrease doesn't it. And if you were that armaments. But I think I I don't I haven't gone through that you should be without drama means what I have argued is that you walk not to produce arms to the extent of lowering the standard of living in the countries on which you are relying on the air of course I've got the support of Truman who says the same thing. Who shares history with him having policies like this we're going to make them timid ha ha but you are your critic really around harvest time ha and I thank you master you must make a distinction
between what people say and what they do. Fact is that whereas they said nevertheless they asked asked an alms of the programme and could not be carried out without reducing the standard of living but I'm afraid our time is up that you've been extremely kind Mr. Bevan I should remind our listeners that we've fired a rather grueling series of questions without any advance notice and no warning and I want to thank you very much indeed Mr non Bevan and our four questioners for coming along today. This is Robert McKenzie saying goodbye from a BBC studio in London. Now that was a discussion which obviously ended too soon. They were really warming up to the occasion. I for one would have wanted to hear a good deal more. Following up many of the points which were raised in the conversation between Mr Bevan and his American friends. But suppose we review of the discussion to see if we can identify some of the kinds of thinking that turned up. For one thing I suppose we all notice the
several points at which Mr Bevan adopted that three step procedure which I described before. First the paraphrase of the question and then the introduction of new facts. And finally the use of a general philosophical basis for his answer. At one point you remember Mr Bevan recommended strengthening the economy of the Soviet Union and he took a seemingly paradoxical position in the belief that if Russia were economically sound if the standard of living were raised then the people of Russia and their leaders would simply not be as aggressive in international affairs as they now evidently are. It wasn't long before one of the American journalists pounced on this position and raised a new point. Doesn't economic strength he said mean military strain. And here Mr Bevan adopted the procedure which we've been examining. What does he do. First of all he rejects the question
and paraphrases it. Of course economic strength means military strength. He points out. But there's military strength mean that a nation will seek to wage war. There is his paraphrase. Then he introduces some facts in this quiet calm and persuasive fashion which throws some light on this paraphrase question. Thought of that because a nation is economic damage to an F-1 has humanity potential and all of us to that level need be afraid of that. Either way is you even more afraid of America which is the strongest nation in the word. And that's very glad we're not afraid. And finally and this characteristic way he turns to his general premise and he argues the case that military strength doesn't necessarily mean military aggressiveness and thus turns the tables if you will on his questioner.
Sometimes of course Mr. Bevan bypasses some of these steps and he answers a question directly by drawing on his general philosophy. Now what this seems to add up to is this. We find over and over again that when a man high in public life such as Mr Bevan when he deals with crucial public policies he applies an underlying philosophy rather than trying to improvise a new answer for every new question as it comes along. These premises of Mr Bevan might be reviewed very quickly. Some of them are well worn as a result because nations one things they can't get in any other way. And not because they like wars for their own sake. Or again that military strength may make for peacefulness and not necessarily for military aggressiveness. Or further but you always must distinguish particularly in international affairs
between what people do and what they say. You may even remember one of his more familiar maxims but national policies are formed in terms of national interests and not because of personal emotions or personal intentions. As far as I can see if I might almost paraphrase Mugen Tylers in Macon nations have no intentions they only have interests in one sense Mr Bevan adopts a remarkably consistent outlook on the world. It's basically economic and only secondarily political. For him the issue of the rate of rearmament is basically an economic issue. What it does to the standard of living of the allies. For him the threat that Russia represents as you'll remember is pretty much economically founded. He is willing to
consider the possibility if the Russians are aggressive because they are deprived of the good things of life. And so throughout his discussion you have a picture of a socialist looking at the world through economic spectacles. The American journalists on the other hand are looking at the present world situation through political spectacles and so you periodically have Mr Bevan on the one hand and his critics on the other really talking past one another and one harping on political implications and the other replying in terms of economic implications. Another thing you may have noticed was the way in which facts are being used in this discussion. Most particularly in strikingly the way in which historical facts were being used for example Mr Bevan emphasised the point that national Communist parties are in effect Trojan horses for the Soviet Union and that Stalin counts on these parties as Trojan horses. He
immediately goes on to say that in times of international turmoil ideas often crossed Brown tears without the benefit of secret agents. The fact that socialist ideas may have moved outside the borders of Soviet Russia. He points out doesn't necessarily mean that that was all arranged in Moscow as he puts it. The same sort of thing happened at the end that he and his regime change really. So John let me put this to you. I do not believe that because the French in 89 they use the language of Thomas Jefferson that the French Revolution was concocted in Washington. The essential point here so it seems to me is that Mr. Bevan as a policy maker turns to history for enlightenment on the present situation has its historical analogies may be good bad or indifferent but they clearly enter into his thinking. There is something else to be learned from this discussion this time about the art
of discussion. As we all know whenever you have a lively political conversation of this kind each side tries to drive the other into an impossible situation to force them to accept opinions that are stated in all white or all black terms to force them to make distinctions of all or none. Now on the whole this was most conspicuous by its absence in this discussion but it did turn up once or twice and I might be revealing to see how it was handled. There was a time for example when Mr Bevan had to remind his interrogators of this point namely that whenever he said that the West had made a mistake for example him too quickly rescinding the Lend-Lease policy after the war. But he didn't mean by that that therefore of a Soviet Union was right as he put it.
Now you mention try and put me in the position galley. How am I going to be pushing that. Almost as you might expect the American journalist adopted a kind of brass tack. At tack. They were after Mr Bevan throughout to have him indicate just when and just where the West made its mistakes. Where did things go wrong. Was it Berlin. Was it the NATO's policy. Just where. And here we see once again that Mr Bevan is more notable for his general approach to a problem rather than for arriving at a specific position on a specific point as he put it in a way that's an impossible question the answer of what the West can do in 1953 is partly determined by what it has done in one thousand fifty one and fifty two.
What you have is not a series of separate and isolated decisions but a chain of decisions. Each one of which affects what comes later. And that consequently one can speak of a specific mistake as though it stood alone. But in his judgment that each decision limited what was to come after. I think this is worthy of note because it leads us to consider at least whether international policies are made on a clean slate and whether they are basically affected by the policies that have been established previously. And it keeps us I think from moving into a kind of utopian thinking in which we believe we can translate our present wishes and our present hopes into immediate reality and then a case that is what I take to be one of the major points to be learned from this discussion. There is one final point that caught my
attention which may be one of the most significant features of this discussion. We've been listening to a maker of British public policy talking about international affairs with American journalists. And I stressed the fact that he's British because for one thing in some totalitarian countries the entire episode would be inconceivable. People there just don't talk back to their political leaders. But there's another consideration and it's this would the same sort of thing happen the same use of logic of historical facts of analysis of questions of clarification of issues if this were a case of four British journalists talking to a maker of American public policy or with quite another sort of thing if they were talking say to leaders of the Democratic or the Republican Party and this general point can be enlarged
upon would we find still other patterns of discussion with French political leaders or with with German. Of course we can tell simply by having listened to this one conversation. But the next time any of this hear a similar discussion on American radio or television it might be interesting and even more it might be instructive to analyze that discussion along the lines we have followed here and see whether each nation develops its own language of politics when the people talk back to a political leader. That was Robert K. Merton a professor of sociology at Columbia University including his recorded analysis of the discussion between an IRA InBev and four American journalists. Professor Merton is author of mass persuasion
and is associate director of the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia. Besides acting as clarifier is serving as a consultant for the people talkback series The discussion was specially recorded in London for the cooperation of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The people talk back is produced and edited by Ralph telling me these programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters and are made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the Ford Foundation. This is the NEA betake network.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
People talk back
Can we live in peace with the Soviet Union?, part two
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-hx15rp03).
Episode Description
In this program, the second of two parts, four American journalists speak to British Labor leader Aneurin Bevan.
Series Description
This series presents a series of questions posed to politicians about current affairs.
Broadcast Date
Politics and Government
Cold War--Political aspects.
Media type
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Merton, Robert King, 1910-2003
Host: McKenzie, Robert Trelford
Interviewer: Daniel, Clifton, 1912-2000
Interviewer: Bremner, Marjorie
Interviewer: Solon, Larry
Interviewer: Schuman, Howard
Producer: Tangley, Ralph
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Bevan, Aneurin, 1897-1960
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 53-13-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:48
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “People talk back; Can we live in peace with the Soviet Union?, part two,” 1953-02-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 5, 2023,
MLA: “People talk back; Can we live in peace with the Soviet Union?, part two.” 1953-02-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 5, 2023. <>.
APA: People talk back; Can we live in peace with the Soviet Union?, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from