- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Feb 1960, p. 206-216
- Alexander, Lt.-Col. Archibald S., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The Free Europe Committee: what it does and how it does it. Signs of progress of the West over the East. Support for the Free Europe Committee. Radio broadcast operations. Dealing with the accusation that the radio operation somehow influenced the uprising in Hungary in 1956. Setting up a West European Advisory Committee to the Free Europe Committee. What that Advisory Committee does. The effectiveness of the operation, the purpose to keep alive the hope of freedom in East Europe. Measuring the effectiveness. Differences between Radio Free Europe and the B.B.C. and the V.O.A. Programming and "propogandizing." Plans for the future. Freedom vs. Communism.
- Date of Original
- 18 Feb 1960
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- "SOME ASPECTS OF THE FREE WORLD'S CONCERN WITH THE SATELLITE NATIONS OF EAST EUROPE"
An Address by LT.-COL. ARCHIBALD S. ALEXANDER President, Free Europe Committee
Thursday, February 18th, 1960
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. Harold R. Lawson.
MR. LAWSON: Our guest of honour was born in New York City and studied at both Princeton and Harvard Universities, obtaining a law degree from the latter in the year 1931. He thereupon engaged in practice of law until 1942 when he enlisted in the army as a 1st lieutenant. He served thirty-four months overseas, in North Africa, Sicily and Western Europe in Military Intelligence and Military Government. During the invasion of Southern France he was assigned as Lieutenant Colonel and Chief of Civilian Supply Control Section at United States Headquarters in the European Theatre in Paris. For his services he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the European African Middle Eastern Theatre Medal with six Bronze Battle Stars, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm and the French Order of National Liberation.
In October, 1945, Col. Alexander was released from active duty and returned to the practice of law. However, in the year following, we find his talents diverted from time to time to public service in one form or another. In August, 1949, he became Assistant Secretary of the Army after short periods of service as Consultant for the State Department and the Atomic Energy Commission. In May, 1950, he was appointed Under Secretary of the Army, from which post he resigned in 1952 to run for the United States Senate. As 1952 was not a good vintage year for Democrats we are today denied the privilege of addressing him as Senator.
I will not embarrass Col. Alexander by detailing all the other positions of responsibility he has held. Suffice it to say that in February, 1959, he was elected President of the Free Europe Committee. This is a private, non-profit organization whose object is to work for the restoration of freedom by peaceful means in the satellite countries of Eastern Europe. Just how this is done will be explained by Col. Alexander himself as he addresses us now on "Some Aspects of the Free World's Concern with the Satellite Nations of East Europe". Col. Alexander.
LT. COLONEL ALEXANDER: I want first to thank you for your hospitality, not only here, but extended through Mr. Irving Smith, who gave me a conducted tour of the city this morning. There were only two one-way streets he went up the wrong way.
Really, your hospitality started a quarter of seven this morning. I decided to take the train up in order to be sure not to be delayed by a plane and not getting in on time. I left word to be called at a quarter to eight, thinking I was going to get a good night's sleep. At a quarter of seven there was a loud knock on the door. I said "Thank you". That didn't seem to satisfy the person. He knocked some more. I opened the door and there was a very courteous but very firm gentleman in uniform. He said, "Where do you live?" I said, "In New Jersey".
"Where were you born?" "In New York City."
"Why have you come to Canada?"
I said, "To speak to The Empire Club".
He certainly went away highly satisfied, and very quickly. I got back to sleep and another series of knocks. This time I was asked if I was bringing any samples.
I said, "Only verbal".
He went away quickly, too.
I also have a slight protest to lodge with you. Yesterday when I left the office my Secretary gave me a clipping from a local newspaper, with the picture of a very beautiful blonde girl. It said: "Beauty and Brains-Mrs. Shelah Courier, 24, beats out 266 applicants for job as Secretary to Frank Ogden, President of a one man business in Toronto, who advertised for a secretary to drive his Thunderbird and to be permitted to give herself a raise whenever she felt she was worth it.
Apparently that story has received a good deal of circulation in secretarial circles in New York. They want to know if it can be done that way up here, what is the matter with us.
Finally, there is one word I would like to say about the difficulties of speaking to people whom one feels one knows as well as we and you know each other. The matter of language never seems to trap you and I hope I won't say anything you take one way which I mean the other way.
There is a play in New York now called "The Drop of the Hat" in which two Britishers give skits-just the two of them consume the whole evening. At one point he was trying to explain for us, the New York audience, what the situation was in England. The job was going to be a political job. He said, "Of course we have two parties over there, really. One is the Labour Party which you call Socialist; the other is the Tory or Conservative Party, which you call Socialist." He was speaking to New York not Toronto.
Now, I would like if I may to say a little about the founding of the organization of which I am President, which took place ten years ago, and tell what it does and how it does it, and in conclusion indicate why it is a hopeful sign and why. we think that we of the West are making progress against certain of the features that we don't like in the eastern part of the world.
You will remember that toward the end of the war there were understandings between the Western statesmen and Stalin that so far as the countries of East Europe were concerned there would be free elections in which those peoples would be allowed to choose their own form of government. You know that that pledge was no sooner made than broken, and that Soviet Russian troops stayed in most or all the satellites and saw to it that Communist governments
took over the countries, many of which had had a long democratic tradition.
Finally, Czechoslovakia was taken over and I think that a lot of us in the West woke up. Among others who woke up was a group of important Americans-statesmen, industrialists, soldiers, teachers, authors-and they decided that they would form an organization which would try to continue to get the truth behind the Iron Curtain to the satellites-not to Russia, to the satellites, and which would seek to work toward getting freedom for those countries again.
The organization was called the Free Europe Committee, and it has also been supported principally by a fund-raising campaign called the Crusade for Freedom.
The enterprise received at the very start the blessing of the United States Government, but the United States Government does not participate in any way in its running and I want to make that distinction very clear. Mr. Truman and the people associated with him in the Department of Defence and State, gave this project as a private operation their blessing and their encouragement, and for the last seven years President Eisenhower has done the same.
In fact, six of us were in the White House and saw the President the day before yesterday in order to discuss what he will do to help us with our fund-raising campaign this year.
Now, the result of the formation of this non-profit New York Corporation has been the establishment of two main operations. One is Radio Free Europe. Radio Free Europe broadcasts to five satellite countries-Poland, CzechoSlovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Roumania. The broadcasts are naturally in the language of the listeners. That means six different languages for those five countries-six groups of people who must understand the language and the country well enough to be able to conduct radio programmes to those countries. In the case of the three bigger countries the programmes last more than twenty hours a day. That is to say it is a full fledged radio operation, very much like what the B.B.C. or any of the commercial networks in the United States would conduct in their own countries, the difference being this has to be conducted partly from Munich, partly from New York, and sometimes Paris and London are involved in programmes. The broadcasting has to be done from outside the country and against very serious jamming of our position.
In the case of Bulgaria and Roumania the broadcasts are about seven hours a day. There also the programmes are well rounded radio programmes-ten minutes of news, every hour on the hour, all the customary types of programme such as Youth, Women's, Farmers', Cultural, Music. Sundays there are actual religious services broadcastProtestant, Catholic and Greek Orthodox, depending on the country, and there are church programmes on various evenings during the week. Then there are interspersed some commentaries or rather like editorials which discuss the news or main trend of events and give very clearly the western viewpoint, so these people who are cut off from any real knowledge by their own government, any real kuowledge of what takes place in our countries, have the possibility of knowing what we are thinking and doing.
Now, it is of tremendous importance for countries which had strong ties with the West. For example, Poland and Czechoslovakia have always looked to England and to France and to the United States in large measure for much of their culture, for many of their ideas, for much of their economic help in the past. They are cut off from that but they still yearn for it. We try to give them at least what can be done in a half hour every day in the commentary, some feeling of what we are thinking and doing.
Regarding the other operation of the Free Europe Committee, it is rather hard to describe because it is a lot of little things. We run community centers in certain Western European cities where exiles are asked to come from the satellites, if they can get out. They come and they really don't know very much about how to adjust themselves to live in the new country. There is some governmental help but it doesn't go very far. We have these community houses which are operated in conjunction with the local authorities and local citizens where the emigrees from these countries can come and find their associates, their compatriots, learn something of the language of the country where they areit may be Munich, Paris, Copenhagen or Stockholm-and they then are if possible put in touch with people who can help them find a useful life this side of the Iron Curtain. I need hardly stress to you how important this kind of thing is because if one single person who has come from a satellite to the West and tried the West out and then found it wanting goes back East, the propaganda effect of that in the country to which he goes back is so bad, and of course besides that there are very valid humanitarian reasons why we wish to help these people.
There will be occasions when in one of the uncommitted areas of the world there will be some signs of Communist agitation and attempt to take over. There are some of the exiles who are associated with us who are fairly well known -a former Mayor of Budapest, a former Corporation Counsel of Prague. Those people can go down to South America or go to India, and tell the people of India or South America what it was like to be in Prague or in Budapest when the Communists took over. They can do that whereas we Anglo-Saxons cannot very well do it. So it is a tremendous service in the struggle against having Communism take over the uncommitted areas that some of these exiles can do for us, and are dying to do, if we just give them a little help.
Now, I would like to mention one thing about the radio operation which is in many people's minds, and I have had so many questions asked about it. It is this, that it is sometimes said that we give false encouragement to the people behind the Iron Curtain. We have even been accused of having had something to do with the uprising in Hungary in 1956.
When a special committee of the Council of Europe was set up, we listened to all the broadcasts and came back and reported to the Council of Europe that we had not transgressed in our broadcasts, that we could not be held in any way responsible for the uprising in Hungary.
They also said it would be a good thing if this radio, Free Europe operation were closer to Western Europe, if there was more possibility of reminding the people of Western Europe that this problem of the satellites still exists and more chance to help Radio Free Europe give the West European viewpoint as well as the American in their broadcasts to the various countries. So last year we set up a West European Advisory Committee to our Free Europe Committee.
The Advisory Committee is composed of Robert Schuman and Audre Francois-Poncet, of France; Alistair Buchan, whose father, Lord Tweedsmuir, was very well known to you, who is a Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom; and Sam Watson who is a leading Trade Union Leader in the United Kingdom; Randolfo Pacciardi, of Italy, the major factor in preveriting, Communism from taking over in Italy after the war, and who served as Secretary of Defence in Italy for five years under de Gasperi; Belgium's Paul-Henri Spaak, former Prime Minister there; from Oslo, a leading newspaper man; from Sweden, a former State Senator and from Portugal, a former Foreign Minister.
This group has now met twice with us for three day sessions, once in Paris and once in Munich. It has been very encouraging to us to find that these eminent representatives, Western Europeans, are prepared to stand up alongside of us and say to the public of our country, "Yes, we think this is an important enterprise and we are prepared to help it with our advice". Their advice has been very helpful. They have made several suggestions to us which we carried out and which improve our operations.
Now, I would like to say something about the effectiveness of the operation, as nearly as we can judge it. The purpose is to keep alive the hope of freedom in these peoples of East Europe and the knowledge of what decency is in the western civilization.
Are we succeeding? Do they hear us? Do they listen to us? Well, there are various ways of finding out. Of course a traveller can take a radio and see whether he can hear the station. It is easier to travel in some countries than others, but we have good data as to the extent to which we can get through the jam and we get through in about ninety per cent in some of the cities where the jamming by the Communist Government is very severe, except for Poland. We do get through and we have various techniques of saturation whereby, particularly in the evening hours, when Bulgaria and Roumania are no longer on the air, we can give enough frequencies to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia so they cannot jam us out.
Now, do people listen to us? Perhaps the best index is that last year there were ten hundred and fifty-four adverse references to western radio stations on the Communist government radio, and in the Communist-controlled newspapers. Usually the reference was a distortion of what the Western Radio station had said, but it also indicated that the Government had heard the broadcast and that the Government was afraid the people had heard it because they took the trouble to comment on it and distort it and try to refute it. Of those ten hundred and fifty-four references in the year, seventy-four per cent were to Radio Free Europe. The others were to the B.B.C., the Voice of America, and other radio stations.
We think the trouble they are taking to listen to us and to try to refute us is a clear indication that the governments of these countries think we are getting through and having an influence with the people.
There are other ways in which we know. We receive a good deal of correspondence, and particularly in the case of Poland there is much travelling back and forth, and it appears to be clear that the majority of the radio listeners in these five countries prefer to listen to Radio Free Europe.
Now, why is it Radio Free Europe rather than the B.B.C. or the V.O.A.? Both B.B.C. and V.O.A. do an enormous amount of good service to the West, to their own country, in broadcasting as they do, but the Voice of America is the official radio of the United States Government and as such there are certain Marquis of Queensbury Rules which they have to adhere to, and if a private radio station is a little franker there is no ground on which to protest to the Government of the United States. But if the Voice of America were very critical about certain internal matters in one of these countries, I think it would probably be grounds for protest.
The B.B.C. is likewise somewhat more circumscribed in its freedom than we are. There is another big difference: the Voice of America broadcasts about an hour and a half a day to Poland in Polish, and we broadcast over twenty hours.
There are many types of programmes like jazz. There is a regular jazz underground in almost all the satellite countries now. All the kids want to hear it and, if we give them a good bit of that, they are going to be listening to our station and they will therefore probably be hearing the news and other things we have to say.
I would like to make this very clear, however-the word "propaganda" is a word which is considerably misused. If our radio station does propagandize at all, it is only by stating the facts-the unfavourable facts as well as the favourable ones.
There are certain things that happen in our country that we are not at all proud of, but we feel it is our duty to report them when they happen, as we know it is our duty to report the good things when they happen. If we do make propaganda it is by adhering very strictly to high journalistic and radio standards of truth and objectivity and when we make our argument which I confess we do from time to time, for the democratic way of life, or the free enterprise system, we do by saying this in an editorial ... this is the view of somebody or other. We do not ever distort the truth.
I have no compunction at all about having gone from the business of law into what is termed the business of propaganda. It all depends on whether the propaganda is decent.
Now, in concluding I would like to give you two or three specific instances of what we have done and then say what I think the future may hold.
Last summer when the Vice-President of the United States decided to stop at Warsaw on the way back from Russia, we got notice of it, of course, in the United States, and you did here. It was probably more interesting to us than to you, but there was a Westerner of some importance going to visit Warsaw. The Poles, on the other hand, were told very little about it, very late, and they were not told when and where he was arriving or what route he would take from the airport, or where he was going to be staying.
Well, we did find out all those details and we and the Voice of America broadcast the information to the Polish people as to where the man who happened to be Vice President of the United States would be landing and where he would be going.
I think you remember the remarkable turnout of the Polish people which was not addressed to the person, particularly, who was visiting but it was an expression, it seemed to us, of the underlying sympathy of the Poles generally for the West. It was rather a shock to the government of Poland and I am sure it was a shock to Khrushchev to find all these people were so enthusiastic for a representative of the West.
That demonstration, I think, would have been impossible had we not been able to broadcast to Poland, and it would have made a very different type of trip and it would have been used by the Communists-the small crowd which would have come out because they didn't know where he was-it would have been used by the Communists to prove that the West and Democracy was not popular with the Poles.
Now, when Mr. Khrushchev came to the United States the thing was depicted in the Russian and satellite radio and newspaper stories as unprecedented in terms of the enthusiasm of the crowd . . . no such enthusiasm since V-Day in World War II. They also said it was the most important event that had happened in North America since Christopher Columbus arrived hereabouts.
Well, we broadcast the facts about this. Perhaps the most interesting way we were able to do it was the Paris newspaper, Le Monde had on the same page a despatch from their Moscow correspondent telling what the Russians were being told by their newspapers about Khrushchev's trip and alongside that was Le Monde's United States correspondent's report, telling exactly what the trip had been like, so the French were able to learn for themselves what they were being told was happening as compared to what was really happening.
When we broadcast that to Poland, Czechoslovakia and so forth, it rather confirmed what the people there suspect -that they are not being told the truth, and that is very important. It is very important because you have some seventy-nine million people in that row of countries beginning with the Baltic States and going down to Albania. They are seventy-nine million people who mostly have not been very fond of the Russians in the past, and generally they have real ties and sympathies with the West. I think we have a moral obligation to see that the tie with the West is kept as much alive as possible, that these people know that although we can't send armies in there to liberate them, we haven't forgotten about them and we are not going to abandon them at the summit or anywhere else.
I think it is important they should have that assurance and as a very practical matter it makes a great deal of difference to the West whether Russia has those seventynine million people completely subjugated and in her hand or whether those people are unreliable allies and unhappy vassals.
I think I can summarize my feeling about this better by reading the last paragraph of an article by a friend of mine called Stewart Alsop, in the Saturday Evening Post, the last of three articles which he wrote after visiting the satellites. He wrote:
"Communism will remain a failure even with an increasing standard of living, but the failure of Communism is not to be measured in average calorie consumption or the production of refrigerators. Its failure is human and spiritual. Through overuse and misuse, the word "Freedom" has become a shabby, tired old word in the West. (I don't agree with him.) But spend a few weeks in the countries of nonfreedom, and it will become real to you again, as real and meaningful as any other word in the language. The word "Freedom" which explains why unless we in the West are unimaginably foolish and flabby, the race to which Khrushchev has challenged us is a race he cannot win."
Our job is to help us be not foolish but reasonably sophisticated in one aspect of this contest with the Communist system. I assure you we are not flabby, but I do know that we need the understanding and the help and at least the moral support of as many citizens of the free West as we can possibly get.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. J. Palmer Kent, Q.C.