The President of the American Federation of Labor ( Gompers ) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I should be grateful to you for an expression of your views concerning what seems to me an important phase of the American position regarding the Russian soviet power.

We are confronted frequently with the statement that economic conditions in Russia are improving, that the soviet authority is proving stable, that Russian agriculture is recovering and that the American government, because of these and other similar matters, should extend recognition to the Soviets.

Of course much that is reported by returning travelers is misinformation gathered during closely supervised tours, but I am not at the moment discussing the truth or falsity of reports as to Russian economic conditions. What I have in mind is that it might serve some purpose if those who are standing for American principles and for the American concept of right and justice and democracy could be given clearly to understand that the backbone of the whole situation regarding Russia is the denial to the people of Russia of any opportunity to pass judgment on their own affairs or to say by whom or in what manner they shall be governed.

It has been the consistent contention of the American Federation of Labor that the soviet power cannot be recognized because it is an autocracy forced upon the people of Russia without their consent and against their will and maintained in the same manner.

I find that Mr. Bullard, then chief of the Division of Russian Affairs of the Department of State, appearing before the House Committee [Page 759] on Foreign Affairs of the Sixty-sixth Congress, Third Session, and discussing House Resolution 635, said:

“The State Department is very energetically opposed, and necessarily, to the present people in control of Russia because they believe they are a tyrannical minority imposing themselves on a reluctant people.”

This has been repeatedly stated to be the belief of the government of the United States, although it should be said, as you doubtless would agree, that the personnel of the present tyranny is not the point of objection; the point of objection is the tyranny itself and a change of personnel would be of no significance, so long as the tyranny remains.

While the position stated by Mr. Bullard has been put forth by the Department of State on various occasions, the statement of that fundamental policy has usually been as a portion of a statement containing other provisions, so that the essential has been more or less involved with other and less vital matters.

It has for a long time seemed to me that we should understand that this is the vital principle, the very essence of our whole point of view regarding Russia; and that other matters are secondary and of minor importance.

I have stated many times that so far as my viewpoint is concerned, I am not able to see where good crops, or an improving economic condition, or any one of a number of things, including an acknowledgment of Russia’s financial obligations, could change the American position regarding recognition, as long as the principle of tyranny remains. It has been urged that the so-called New Economic Policy, modifying the practice of communism, removed some of the objection to recognition, but we have held that any policy that was changed one way by edict could as well be changed another way by edict—and we are opposed to the whole autocratic principle under which people are governed by fiat, edict and military command.

The definition of the policy of the Department of State, as read into the record of the hearing on House Resolution 635, seems to me to put the whole question on the proper basis; to put it, indeed, upon the only sound basis. I am unable to see any other tenable basis upon which a democracy could take a position that could be maintained with consistency. There is involved here an unchanging position upon which, if I see the matter rightly, we are bound to hold without abatement, because of our very faith in democracy and because of our determination that freedom is the heritage of every human being, the denial of which we cannot look upon anywhere with complacency.

[Page 760]

I shall be deeply obliged to you if you will inform me whether I have correctly interpreted the views of democratic America as expressed officially for our people by the Department of State. It will be a reassurance of great value if we may all understand clearly that the denial of freedom to the Russian people is the keystone of our position in relation to the question of recognition. To the wage earners of the United States the present tyranny in Russia is a thing despicable and intolerable in practice and beyond consideration in principle; and any thought that the United States might under any circumstance extend official recognition, even in a modified form, to such a villainous despotism is repugnant.

I am [etc.]

Sam’l Gompers