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never picks up anything from the Soviet press. The implication was there, I think, that the American press is not really free. I said, as best I recall: “Well, communication is nothing if it is not honest, so I will give you my opinion as it is. The truth is, the American press does not respect the Soviet press; Americans are not going to respect a newspaper or a journal that is controlled by the state. Your press can pick up Reston or some other, perhaps finding criticism of American politics in it that comports with your own, and we would surely run stuff from your press, perhaps for similar reasons, if you had a free press.” I used the example I best know, the journal I work on. They had asked me before if there was not some local subsidy \(we get very little eight years it was backed financially by Mrs. R. D. Randolph, an idealistic and wealthy Houston liberal, but that now it is sustained entirely out of its earned income, about 85% of which comes from subscribers. “If your country would allow this sort of thinglet a man go and organize a paper and say what he wants to and get his own support from his own subscribers, then we would respect your press,” I told them, thus reverting to my fundamental point that not socialism but civil liberty is the most serious barrier between our two countries’ understanding. Yet I think now that my instinct to argue carried me too far here: most of our papers are not as free as they should be. These two Russiansthe blond one born and raised in Moscow, the dark one born in Gorky and moved to Moscowresponded in substance to all this by saying that there is more freedom in Russia now than there used to be. The dark Russian said along about this time that his country had had a special problem in that Stalin “was not a good man.” It was also the dark Russian who conducted the forays of blood-letting criticism against American life as the evening advanced and the Scotch did flow. First, he said, Americans brag about the high standard of living here\(“It is true, we do have it.” I said; “Yes, it’s true,” the something is rotting the life of the people. The rising crime rate, mental illness, all that: he seemed to mean that we are decadent and gone to ,moral rot. Well, commercialism is appalling in this country, and something has gone wrong in the cities, who can deny it? Further, I said, I think that freedom, liberty, the amplitude in an individual’s life is the best single gauge for the goodness of a society, and that there has been a closing in on this amplitude in the United States. “We have the same wordamplituda,” the blond remarked with some pleasure. The Izvestia man made some resolution as to the conversation then, for a moment lowering his head so that his shoulders squared and gazing down at the floor. He asked the blond how to say something in Russian, and the blond suggested, “a convinced communist,” to which the dark one replied, No, that wasn’t itbut yes, he was a convinced communist. “A devoted communist,” suggested the blond. “Yes,” the dark one said, turning to us, “I am a devoted communist.” And he went on. You cannot deny, can you, he said, the 35, or 40, or however many million people it is, who are in poverty in your country. No, one cannot deny this. In fact . . . You must admit, he pressed on, that it is legal for this to happen in your country. I recognized then, in this moment of this confrontation with this devoted communist, a difference between our two countries that I had dimly known before, but had not thought very long about, it so disturbed me. Yes. I said, it is legal for this to be so here. As far as he is concerned, he said, the nub of the difference is this: that in the United States you have private property, a man can hire people to work for him and exploit them, but not in Russia: this is the uncompromisable difference, and communists will never give in on it. \(He did not exactly say, although I think he meant, that last. As I recall, he shook his head, and even his shoulders a little, saying”. . . and we’re never going to … .”; I was not inclined to enter the war on poverty in defense, just yet; it was too trivial, flyswatters in a jungle, and it still is. But I did call attention to a similarity in the neglect of civil liberties in Russia, and of economic justice in the United States. Russia, out of czardom into communism, never had a period when it experienced civil liberties, and the idea of them has had to evolve there recently, in this present period of inter-nation comparisons. The United States, in its own national history, has not had a tradition of dealing with people as criminals because they pursue their own interests with morally indefensible results in the lives of others, although this idea has been evolving complexly in this country at least since the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. I expressed the hope that just as we may be patient and hopeful as civil liberties gain ground in Russia, they be patient and hopeful as our struggle against economic injustice proceedsproceeds, I hoped, without more reliance on the idea of criminality, but rather as a struggle for the community, a problem for us all. THE BLOND volunteered the remark that they were not going to write only the bad of what they had seen and heardthat they wanted to give the good and the bad, a balanced view. Perhaps it is as hard for them, creatures of their culture, to do this, as it is for me, a creature of mine. I expressed to them, as I had earlier in the day at the office, impatience that it has become so difficult for people from East and West simply to meet and talk together as persons; that there rises up between us this awareness of Government, of vast institutional apparatuses. I contendedhoping, really, to get through to themthat the reason for being must find itself in the life of the person, and that the general shape of the search for life’s meaning now is man trying to control and cope with every force, including government and corporations, that seeks to elevate itself above this only valid locus for the deepest human values. The most… general trouble, I said, is the nation-state system that encloses us; but that, I think, did not get through: the dark one said, Well then !Let us agree on one thing, peaceful coexistence! Yes, I said, let’s do. I recalled an occasion in 1961, during one of the State Department’s regional seminars on foreign policy, when I had asked a leading U.S. diplomat what the State Department was doing toward effecting the reduction of tensions between Russia and the United States. The diplomat had respondedin the presence of 400 or 500 people, up in Dallas that this was “communist language,” and we did not use that term, reduction of tensions. I had started back toward the microphone, quite angry, really, but he at once backed awaysaid he could answer the question, and I let it go. His answer was, there would never be better relations until the communists changed. Well, I told the two Russians in our living room, a year or two later President Kennedy and leading U.S. spokesmen were speaking of the reduction of tensions and the lessening of tensions. One of the best things President Kennedy said, I added, was that he hoped we could make the world “safe for diversity,” and so, with the nuclear threat over us all, we should agree on peaceful coexistence, an idea perhaps emanating from the Russian side, and a world safe for diversity, an idea from President Kennedy. They may have agreed about a world safe for diversity, but I do not remember them doing it, and later I reflected that although we had met and talked civilly, the differences we discussed are being fought and died about in Viet Nam now, and menace the world with sudden mass death. But anyway we had met two Russian communists, and we four had talked, and that was something, that was more than nothing. Jean asked the dark one if they were going to write about their trip, and he said yes, they were conducting interviews and they would write about it, so our talk was on the record. The dark one was Stanislav Kondrashov, correspondent, Isvestia, Moscow, and the blond was Alexander N. Druzhinin, correspondent, Moscow Radio and TV, USSR. As they took their leave, Jean in shaking hands goodbye said, “You’re the first real live Russians I’ve ever shaken hands with,” and Kondrashov replied, “Oh, but it’s all right with dead Russians, eh?” This was in very good humor, and besides, it was true; in Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Prishvin, we have shaken hands with dead Russians; now here were two alive from their land. The next morning, when I was sitting in an oak tree in the hill country supposedly looking for a deer to come into my brushy bower, and reading along in the book of Russian stories and poems, I felt that I understood better than I could before what they are about and why they are as they are. I even, scrutinizing a shadowed clump of trees because of rustling there, whispered to myself, “Moscow is no mystery to me.” Gary and I stayed out two days. and never saw a deer. R.D. April 2, 1965 13