128. Address by the Secretary of State Before the Dallas Council on World Affairs, October 27, 19561

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Captive Nations

Another intensive concern of our foreign policy is in relation to the captive nations of the world. We had looked upon World War II as a war of liberation. The Atlantic Charter and the United Nations Declaration committed all the Allies to restore sovereign rights and self-government to those who had been forcibly deprived of them and to recognize the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they would live. Unhappily, those pledges have been violated, and in Eastern Europe one form of conquest was merely replaced by another.

But the spirit of patriotism, and the longing of individuals for freedom of thought and of conscience and the right to mold their own lives, are forces which erode and finally break the iron bonds of servitude.

Today we see dramatic evidence of this truth. The Polish people now loosen the Soviet grip upon the land they love. And the heroic people of Hungary challenge the murderous fire of Red Army tanks. These patriots value liberty more than life itself. And all who peacefully enjoy liberty have a solemn duty to seek, by all truly helpful means, that those who now die for freedom will not have died in vain. It is in this spirit that the United States and others have today acted to bring the situation in Hungary to the United Nations Security Council.

The weakness of Soviet imperialism is being made manifest. Its weakness is not military weakness nor lack of material power. It is weak because it seeks to sustain an unnatural tyranny by suppressing human aspirations which cannot indefinitely be suppressed and by concealing truths which cannot indefinitely be hidden.

Imperialist dictatorships often present a formidable exterior. For a time they may seem to be hard, glittering, and irresistible. But in reality they turn out to be “like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” They have vulnerabilities not easily seen.

Our Nation has from its beginning stimulated political independence and human liberty throughout the world. Lincoln said of our Declaration of Independence that it gave “liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for all future time.” [Page 318] During the period when our Nation was founded, the tides of despotism were running high. But our free society and its good fruits became known throughout the world and helped to inspire the subject peoples of that day to demand, and to get, the opportunity to mold their own destinies.

Today our Nation continues its historic role. The captive peoples should never have reason to doubt that they have in us a sincere and dedicated friend who share their aspirations. They must know that they can draw upon our abundance to tide themselves over the period of economic adjustment which is inevitable as they rededicate their productive efforts to the service of their own people, rather than of exploiting masters. Nor do we condition economic ties between us upon the adoption by these countries of any particular form of society.

And let me make this clear, beyond a possiblity of doubt: The United States has no ulterior purpose in desiring the independence of the satellite countries. Our unadulterated wish is that these peoples, from whom so much of our own national life derives, should have sovereignty restored to them and that they should have governments of their own free choosing. We do not look upon these nations as potential military allies. We see them as friends and as part of a new and friendly and no longer divided Europe. We are confident that their independence, if promptly accorded, will contribute immensely to stabilize peace throughout all of Europe, West and East.

Peoples of U.S.S.R.

Let me add a word about future relations with the peoples who compose the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They, too, can have hope. The spread of education and industrial development create growing demands for greater intellectual and spiritual freedom, for greater personal security through the protection of law, and for greater enjoyment of the good things of life. And there has been some response to those demands.

There is ground to believe that that trend will prove to be an irreversible trend. It may bring the day when the people of the United States can have, with the people of Russia, the relations of fellowship which they would like and when the Governments of our countries can deal with each other as friends.

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  1. Source: Department of State Bulletin, November 5, 1956, pp. 697–698. The President had reviewed the speech the previous day and given his approval.