- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 10 Mar 1960, p. 242-252
- Henderson, Larry, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The Soviet challenge in Asia at a time when the Communist economic threat is assuming ever greater proportions. Examples of Khrushchov's economic contributions in various countries. Soviet development of the underdeveloped countries with the proportions of a major political assault on the economies of the free world. Some details of Western aid for comparison. The trend of underdeveloped countries to turn to Russia and away from the West for their technical development. Questioning the ultimate objective of the Soviet programme. The speaker's travels in Russia and findings pertinent to this issue. Looking at Soviet success. The West in the field of defence. The threat to the West of increasing provocations around the periphery of the communist world. Disadvantages of the Western world in terms of defence readiness. Consequences of the Soviet economic offensive. The need for much closer study and reporting with regard to Soviet development in Asia. What can we do and what do we want to do? What are we willing to do in order to build and preserve democracy? Looking at Canada's education records and economic priorities. The importance of understanding the developments taking place today, to know how to choose freely the path that we will follow.
- Date of Original
- 10 Mar 1960
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- "THE SOVIET CHALLENGE IN ASIA"
An Address by LARRY HENDERSON
Thursday, March 10th, 1960
CHAIRMAN: The First Vice-President, Mr. Alexander Stark, Q.C.
MR. STARK: There may still be some hardy individuals who refuse steadfastly to acquire a television set. If there are any such, and the number must be very few, it is possible that the name "Larry Henderson" is unknown to them. But apart from that very select few, Larry Henderson is known to us all for the clarity and brilliance of his reporting. In the varied fields of radio and television communication in Canada, he has played a very important role.
A native of Montreal, Mr. Henderson attended McGill University, and did further study in international affairs in England and in Switzerland. During World War 11 he served in the Canadian Army Signal Corps in Italy and in Northwest Europe. In 1945 he returned to Canada to pioneer and head Canada's first foreign radio news coverage, which eventually developed into a daily syndicated commentary sponsored on 24 radio stations. He was the first Canadian Broadcaster to cover the Korean War. He was accredited to General MacArthur's headquarters and he toured Formosa, Japan, Hong Kong, Indo-China, India and Yugoslavia, reporting to Canada from all of these areas.
In the intervening years he has travelled widely; but, of course, it is as C.B.C.'s Television Newscaster that he is best known. In 1956 he pioneered the first television cast abroad with sound film, bringing back interviews with King Hussein of Jordan, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion of Israel, and other controversial personalities. Since then he has covered the Suez Crisis and visited many countries behind the Iron Curtain, including Russia, China and Soviet Central Asia. His work has drawn plaudits not only from his radio and television audiences but his fellow journalists as well.
Larry Henderson married Joan Annand in 1949. He tells me they have two young sons who, in their own way, make life at home almost, if not quite, as exciting as in the numerous countries he has visited.
Our guest has chosen a subject which he is fully competent to discuss and one which I know will prove helpful and interesting to us all. I present to you Larry Henderson, speaking on "The Soviet Challenge in Asia".
MR. HENDERSON: Whenever I face a battery of microphones like this, I am reminded of the time I tried to procure a microphone in Russia. One of our microphones belonging to the sound-film equipment I had brought to the Soviet Union had been damaged in transit. I searched all the retail electrical stores in Moscow without success. Eventually I told my friend Dan Schorr, then Moscow correspondent for the Columbia Broadcasting System, that I did not think they made any high-grade equipment in the Soviet Union.
"Don't you believe it," he said. And he told me about the microphone that he found concealed in the air ventilator over his bed. It was so tiny and sensitive that it didn't have any magnetic field. "They have them alright! They're just not in the stores, that's all!" he said. When I think of that, I am glad, at least, that in Canada all our microphones are in view! I hope we always keep it that way.
You have invited me to come and talk to you about the Soviet challenge in Asia at a time when the Communist economic threat is assuming ever greater proportions. Within the past few weeks, we have watched Premier Khrushchov's remarkable progress across Asia, scattering largess wherever he went. In India he left nearly three hundred million dollars in credits, in Indonesia another two hundred million or more, even a hundred million in tiny Afghanistan. All this, in addition to another two hundred million a month ago to Egypt for the purpose of completing the Aswan Dam--not to mention the hundred million Mr. Mikoyan advanced about the same time to Cuba, on this continent.
Soviet development of the underdeveloped countries is assuming the proportions of a major political assault on the economies of the free world. Altogether, at the present time, the Soviet Union has a one billion dollar development programme in operation, directed toward underdeveloped lands outside the Soviet Union. All this aid is available in industrial hardware: atomic power stations, turbine generators, petroleum refineries, agricultural experimental stations, irrigation dams, and so on.
This is not to say that the West has been idle in this regard. The United States alone has a foreign development programme of about a billion and a quarter dollars. Total Western aid is probably much greater than the Soviet. But less than a quarter has gone to the underdeveloped countries, and, of this, one third is devoted to military areas, Korea, Formosa, Turkey, and so on. As a result, the underdeveloped countries, which are just beginning their own industrial revolutions, are now turning to Russia and away from the West for their technical development. A trend that can only end in the total isolation of the West.
We must ask ourselves, therefore, what do these portents mean? What is the ultimate objective of the Soviet programme? How are we to account for their success? It was to try to answer some of these questions, to supply a few of the clues, that I undertook my last trip of about 9000 miles inside the Soviet Union. I would like to mention briefly what I found that is pertinent to these problems.
There is a tremendous discrepancy of views about the Soviet Union, and many people evidently don't know what to believe concerning even the most basic details of life in that country. Everywhere in Canada I am asked: what is the 'truth about Russia? Are they really so far ahead of us? Are people really better off there? I would like to take this occasion to nail down at least some of the facts, as I see them, and in so doing, perhaps, supply some of the clues we are looking for.
In the first place, the Soviet Union is in a state of transition. Things are changing rapidly, which leads to great confusion and many contradictions. In some ways, things are improving, but nothing basically is changed. For example, people are noticeably more free now, than they were when I was in Russia in, say, 1957. Before, no one would talk to me. Now I can stand on a street corner and address large crowds of people (usually there is an English speaking student in every crowd to act as interpreter).
"We have never been so free before," these people told me. But when I got down to a discussion of freedom, it soon appeared they had no conception of what freedom really is. They are not free to come to Canada, for instance, as I can go to Russia, just to see the outside world. They cannot get an exit visa. They cannot even travel from one place to another inside their own country without a visa stamped in their internal passport. Is this freedom? Of course not. But it was interesting to hear people standing up in public now and criticizing these restrictions on their personal freedom.
Then again, once you get out among the people, the standard of living is noticeably low, lower indeed than in any of the countries of the West. But when these street meetings would break up and I would be invited by one or two people up into their homes and I would climb the dark stairwell in those workers' flats to their single room (ninety percent of the Soviet people are still living a whole family to a single room), and they would open the cupboard and take out the black bread and cucumbers and salt and offer a little spread of hospitality, they said: "We have never lived so well before."
Of course, they are not living well. The average Soviet worker earns 600 roubles a month. Let this equal $60. At the same rate of exchange, an ordinary suit of clothes costs him $160; shoes $30 or $40 a pair; the same with food: meat $2 a pound, eggs 15 cents each, oranges 30 cents each--do I need to go on? These figures alone will give some idea of the poverty of the Soviet people.
The difference is that there was literally nothing at all for them before. Only now are they coming up into the sunlight for the first time in their history, getting clothes fit for human beings to wear, food fit for human beings to eat. They are just starting out on their journey to civilization. But they still have a long way to go. These people who are so justifiably proud of their missile successes ("How do you like our sputniks, eh?"--that's a standard question I met everywhere), these same people have only one pair of shoes to their name and that made of nothing but cardboard. The extravagant largess Mr. Khrushchov dispenses in foreign aid is wrung from the labour of the Soviet people at the cost of their own standard of living. Not many people understand this in Russia yet, but they are beginning to awaken.
This is still a country in which the State has total power to regulate the lives and energies of every one of its 200 million people as it chooses. This alone gives it an enormous advantage over the democracies. But this is not all achieved by force. The carrot works as well as the stick in a "have not" society. I am thinking, for instance, of their universities, like the one I visited at Tashkent in Soviet Central Asia. Here I found about five thousand students, many of whom came not from the Soviet Union itself, but from the underdeveloped areas of so called "free Asia", our Asia. They came from Indonesia and India, and Iraq and Syria. Their travelling expenses were paid, their lodging paid, their books paid by the Soviet Government. And on top of that they were all paid a salary in accordance with their marks.
Of course, they are not free to study whatever suits them. Their courses are directed to provide the Government with the kind of graduate that is needed to implement its plan: to build those steel mills and to spread the Marxist doctrine. (Ten percent of the studies is taken up with Marxism-Leninism.) These are the young people that are being turned out of Soviet Universities, at a rate four times greater (according to Mr Aroutunian, Russia's Ambassador to Canada) than the comparable rate from Western universities.
But the attitude among the young people themselves, I found, is extremely keen. And no wonder. Because, you see, education, science, Marxism is the high road to success in the Soviet world. And I mean hard cash success. Here is another aspect of the problem that we would do well to look into: the new incentive system communism provides. If you thought that the house that Marx built was a place in which every man received equal pay for equal labour you would be dead wrong.
One of the astonishing new features of the Soviet Union is the enormous wage differential--just as wide apart from top to bottom as ours, wider perhaps--but a whole new set of people have come to the top. Who is at the top in the Soviet world today? Not the businessmen, of course, except for the State directors of industry. Not the bankers or the big, bad brokers of Bay Street. The scientists, the technicians, the university professors, the writers, the artists, the ballet dancers--anyone who aids the political aims of the State.
These are the new elite, the people who are drawing down the big money--and I mean big not in comparison with their fellow workers, cooped up, a whole family to a room, in those workers' flats, but big in comparison with their opposite numbers in our society. Would you like some examples? Well, there are so many to give. One that always comes to my mind is the Bolshoi Ballet. I met many of the top stars of the Bolshoi, both in Moscow and in Toronto when they were here. Very charming people, very dedicated and very well paid. I remember talking to Maia Plissetskaya (who has now replaced Ulanova as prima ballerina). She had danced in London and met Dame Margot Fonteyn of the Royal Ballet. She was very sorry for her. "Poor Margot--she has to buy her own tights!" Of course, I don't really know the importance of tights in a ballet dancer's budget--Plissetskaya says she goes through three pairs in a night--but perhaps that Soviet nylon is not so good--or perhaps they are more energetic over there!
To choose a more practical example: I spent the evening with a Soviet scientist in his flat in Moscow--and note that, in a city where the mass of the people are living a whole family in a single room, the scientist has a five-room flat--he has a car, a villa in the country, a yacht he sails on the Black Sea in the summertime--and the question that was going through my mind all evening was this: can we maintain our lead or even our equality with the Soviet world in the technical era of tomorrow, with our own low pay scales for exactly this sort of person--and consequent shortage of them at the present time, especially in the vital field of defence?
These, at any rate, are a few of my impressions of life in the Soviet Union, which may supply clues to the outstanding Soviet successes in science, in economic development abroad and above all, in propaganda in the underdeveloped countries of the world. It would, I suggest, be wrong to continue to attribute Soviet success to some freakish development by captured German scientists. It is rather the end result of forty years of state control, state subsidized education, scientific specialization and a whole new set of economic incentives.
What, then, is the position today--first of all, in the field of defence? We did not need the Soviet demonstration of firing into the Pacific from bases in Central Asia to show us that they had intercontinental missiles capable of such accuracy. We know they have missiles of more advanced power and design than ours--their satellite launchings have shown us that.
Of course, we are working on these things, too (though we advertise our failures rather more than our successes). Various estimates are given of how long it will take to get a Western ICBM into mass production. According to experts like Dr. Werner von Braun, head of the American Ballistics missile agency, it may be another four or five years. Then, again, some say the Russians may not be able to mass-produce theirs either. A few successful tests is one thing. A big production programme is another. Russian industry, we know, is still backward. It is not yet tooled up, workers have not yet learned to "think" with their hands. They may not be able to do it for a long time either.
But I wouldn't be too sure. I visited the vast area of Soviet Central Asia where the Soviet missiles are launched. I flew over the score of new cities that are springing up there--all obviously industrial cities, built around factories and railway marshalling yards, and all forbidden. I have discussed the enormous growth of industrial potential in Kazakhstan with the members of the Kazakh Academy of Science. But not one of them would say what these cities were producing. It is fairly obvious that where missiles are being launched, they are probably also being made, and if only a fraction of the hidden output of Soviet Central Asia were going into missiles the Soviet missile programme would be very far advanced indeed.
Someday, however, the Soviet ICBM will be in mass production. And from that day on we must expect a change in the climate of world affairs. Because after that it will no longer be possible to use the nuclear deterrent to contain communist aggression in the outlying areas of the world, whether it is in the Formosa Strait, in the Middle East or in Berlin, without risking a pushbutton retaliation that would annihilate 50 million people in a quarter of an hour. One hopes the Soviet leaders would not be so mad as to push the button. But equally, no democratically elected leader could take the risk.
So what is likely to happen? Western leaders are faced with the threat of increasing provocations around the periphery of the communist world which they must meet with conventional arms--the ordinary hardware of warfare, guns, tanks and planes. But here, too, they are at a serious disadvantage. We are poorer today in most of these things than the Soviets, and much poorer than we ourselves have been at any time since the Second World War. Why? Because, of course, we have ploughed our industry and our wealth into the production of luxuries, relying on the nuclear deterrent to protect us. Now the Soviets have the bomb, and are likely to have a better means of delivering it in the near future as well. This must produce a reappraisal in our concept of defence that is likely to cost us dear.
Next, what about the Soviet economic offensive, which is directed primarily against Asia and the underdeveloped countries? I think we all realize how much we really depend on these countries, as we have always depended on the vast areas of Africa and the Middle East and the Far East, as sources of raw materials and as markets for manufactured goods. If we should ever lose all these areas to the Soviet bloc--as we are losing them one by one, let us not miss the trend of the news--if we were to lose them all, surely we would expect our standard of living to fall, with all the social, political and economic chaos that would mean.
At any rate, whether we believe it or not, that is what Mr. Khrushchev means. In this regard, there is no change in Soviet ambitions to take over the world. That's what Mr. Khrushchov meant when he told Mr. Nixon in Moscow: "Mr. Vice-President, your grandchildren will live under communism." That's what he meant when he said to The West rhetorically: "We will bury you."
I believe the impact of Soviet development in Asia requires much closer study and more widespread reporting than it is getting. I hope to be able to contribute some small part to this need, on my forthcoming journey to the Far East to gather material for my next film and book: "Countdown in Asia". I hope to be able to discuss it from the Asian point of view more fully when I come back.
Let us now, however, consider what we can do about it here at home. The question before our generation is really what we want to do. There is a country which openly declares it has organized its manpower, womanpower, brainpower and natural wealth for one objective: to build world communism. Are we prepared to organize our society, not along communist lines, but let us say along competitive lines, to build and preserve democracy?
What would that mean? Look at education, for example. Here you have a country on the one hand in which every child, of whatever colour or sex, has an equal opportunity for education up to the highest level, insofar as he gets the tuition free, the books free, the lodging free and on top of that he gets a salary in accordance with his marks.
What is the position here in Canada? According to the findings of the Atkinson Foundation, at the University of Toronto, less than half the really bright students ever get to college at all. That is to say, less than half those with 70 per cent marks in high school ever do go on to a university.
It was further revealed that while half those at university had a high-school record of over 70%, the other half was well below that point. All of which would seem to indicate that nearly half our best brains are not receiving higher education at all, while half the product of our universities is of inferior quality. Can we afford this waste?
We have to decide whether the methods we are using--private support for education, charitable grants for scholarships--whether these methods are the best we can do to bring our young people forward and give them the best chance possible to play their most useful role in our society.
But another and even more fundamental question concerns our subject more closely. Are we prepared to deflect any of our resources away from the production of luxuries and toward the development of the backward areas of the world? Canada has increasingly moved toward a greater responsibility in this field in recent times, and yet our contribution to date to the Colombo Plan for Asian development is less than one quarter of one per cent of our national income. The conclusion is inescapable that the "have" nations are concentrating their wealth on their own development and letting the devil take the hindmost.
What I am suggesting, of course, is a large-scale programme of Government investment in the underdeveloped areas. Initially this would cost us heavily. It wouldn't throw any of us out of work; on the contrary, it would probably solve our employment problems for a generation. But it would mean that, for a time, many of the goods we take for granted would disappear from the stores. We would be spending our money other ways.
After all, Mr. Khrushchov isn't giving the Russian people these things. He isn't giving them TV sets in the living room and the rec room and the bedroom, and washers and dryers in the kitchen, and two cars in every garage--and putting on a one billion dollar development programme in the underdeveloped areas. This may be a factor that explains the lower Soviet standard of living, which we are so complacent about.
So that when we saw Mr. Khrushchov on his tour of the United States, looking over the factories and department stores and supermarkets, we nodded our heads and said: "That'll show the old so-and-so." But what did it show him? That we are spending our wealth on today, while he believes, at any rate, that he is spending his on tomorrow!
Whatever we decide to do, I know we can do it. After all, let us keep our bearings. We have still far more skills than the Soviet world. We have more trained men and women. We have more experience. We have more resources. We have far, far more wealth. All we lack is the direction. It will come. But when it comes, I ask you to remember it must come from you. That is democracy. It is the glory and, in times of crisis, the shortcoming of democracy. The people lead. The leaders follow. It has to be so, because a leader, in order to be elected, has to give the people what the people want. But for the people to lead, they must be well-informed and well-advised.
And that is the real challenge of Soviet world to us as individuals: to understand the developments taking place today, to know how to choose freely the path that we will follow.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Z. S. Phimister.