The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

The George Washington University

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

NEW YORK, Wednesday — The meeting which I attended at Syracuse University yesterday was under the auspices of the college groups of the United Nations Association. I find that these young people are thinking not only about international but about national questions.

I was asked about the President's executive order to prevent disloyal employees from working for the Government. I was asked also about the proposals, which are coming up in several parts of the country, for outlawing the Communist Party. I was asked whether I thought it was necessary to take these steps. Therefore I've decided to write today on the feeling I have about all repressive measures.

To me such measures always are a sign of lack of confidence in ourselves. If we were sure that our citizens understood the value of democracy and were clear in their minds on the subject. I doubt if we would need such an investigation as the President has ordered. It would be quite easy to eliminate from the Government, by the usual legal processes, anyone who was proved to be disloyal. Naturally, any order of this kind carries a certain amount of danger with it, in that it may be possible to misuse its provisions. If a wave of hysteria hits us, there will be very little protection for anyone who even thinks differently from the run-of-the-mill.

Political conditions in the USSR today still do not recognize the right of individuals to think differently. Only here and in other free democracies, can we criticize our Government and have the freedom to think independently. It is, I believe, a very precious freedom, but it requires of us something more than apathetic citizenship. We must really believe in democracy and in our objectives. We cannot live in fear either of Fascism or Communism. We have to be certain that the majority of our people recognize the benefits of democracy and therefore are loyal to it.

Proposals to outlaw the Communist Party seem to me another evidence of a feeling of insecurity. I can imagine nothing stupider than to believe that the mass of people of this country would really find Communism a greater advantage to them than our own democratic system. The danger in outlawing the Communist Party is that we would set a precedent which might work against any change or difference of opinion in the future.

I do not know why we are so prone to fears at the present time. Some people are so afraid of Russia that they are suggesting that perhaps, since we cannot hope always to be the only nation possessing the atom bomb, we should use it fairly soon to wipe out all opposition. That sounds ludricous, but it has actually been said to me by some people.

Others fear that we cannot manage our economy so as to avoid a major depression. Still others think that it will be impossible ever to make the United Nations strong, because we are all too much afraid of each other to trust to joint action.

All of these attitudes are attitudes of fear. They show lack of confidence in ourselves and in others. For the leading democracy in the world to indulge in them is a very great danger, not to us alone but to the world.

E.R.