115. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Henry Cabot Lodge
  • Mr. Khrushchev
  • Mr. Troyanovski


  • Trip to Hyde Park

Khrushchev was of two minds” as to his performance in New York on Thursday. He had felt that the questions at the Economic Club had been provocative” and that the evening there had not been a success.1 He referred particularly to the question asked by Gardner Cowles about the jamming of radio broadcasts which he thought was especially provocative.

I said that I had known Cowles all my life and that I was sure he had not meant to be provocative but it was just the kind of question important to Americans and that one of the things that gave this trip value was that it gave Americans the chance to ask things on their minds. Obviously the American way of looking at life and the Soviet way of looking at life are very different and that created difficulties. But if there had been no difficulties there would have been no point in his making the great effort to come here to try to solve the difficulties.

He said that the question of what broadcasts would be heard in the Soviet Union was entirely an internal matter and that it was none of our business. If we persisted in an unreasonable attitude there would be no end of jamming. As a matter of fact he had been ready to reduce jamming on selected items—not merely artistic—but speeches and debates. But he certainly would not authorize outsiders making appeals to people within his borders to turn them against the government. He said you would not like people from outside appealing to people here to overthrow the government.

I said that if such appeals were made on our radio most Americans would simply laugh, but I recognized he had a perfect right to regard this as an internal matter.

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I told him that I thought he had been misinformed when he had been told the State Department was in favor of reducing and contracting cultural exchanges. I said the reverse was the case. They wanted to expand them.

He said he had been advised by Mr. Zhukov that the State Department wanted to curtail exchange of students.

I said there is obviously a misunderstanding which should be cleared up, to which he agreed.

He then started probing me on a wide range of subjects. In fact he was definitely trying to tease me.

He brought up the American Communists who had been sent to jail some years ago and said what an unjust thing that had been.

I said that we were very much against violence in this country. We realized that it had been written by some of the leading Communist writers that violence should be used ruthlessly, but we were against it. On the other hand, I said, every American had the right to try to get control of the government by peaceful means. For example, I had been campaign manager of the effort in 1951–52 to get the Republican nomination for General Eisenhower—which was in effect an attempt to get control of the government. In this case the attempt was completely successful. There was nothing illegal about this.

But American Communists are committed to overthrow the government by force. No government, including the Soviet, fails to have laws to protect it against being overthrown by force.

He wanted to know what these Communists had done.

I said this had happened nine years ago and I hadn’t studied it lately, but it is completely spread out on all records of the court.

He said you can look for nine years and you can never find proof that they have done anything wrong.

Then he turned to me with a grin and gave me a nudge in the ribs and said: You say you don’t like violence. Did George Washington have an election in order to win the American Revolution?

Later he was talking about a certain politician in Russia who was out speaking to everybody—people and cows. I interrupted him to say that American politicians wouldn’t bother talking to the cows because they don’t vote. He laughed heartily, made an X” mark on my sleeve, and said: That scores one for you.

He went back again to the dreadfulness of our press and our politics. I said he ought to realize that with us the printed word wasn’t taken as solemnly as in Russia.

Any man who wanted to start a political party could do so by signatures on a paper. This I believed was inconceivable in the Soviet Union. These are some of the differences that exist.

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He said, I understand some people buy papers for advertising.

I said my wife reads the ads every morning and notices such things as shoes, hats, rugs, etc., and then telephones the stores her orders. What is wrong with that?

He boasted over and over again how they were going to surpass us, obviously trying to get a reaction out of me. After about the fifth time I said this: I admire so much what the Soviet Union has accomplished in production of heavy industry, medicine, rockets, nuclear physics and languages. I think it is wonderful. I think it is a good thing for us to compete and only humanity stands to gain if we compete to see who can do the most for everyday people. I would like to go further to compete to see who can give them the most freedom—throw the government out if they don’t like it. But, I said, it is just inconceivable to me that you can ever get ahead of us. Our potential for long-range growth is simply fantastic, and some time I would just like to show you some figures I think will astound you. With the best will in the world I don’t think you can possibly catch up with our way of doing things.

He kept coming back to the subject of my grandchildren and that in their future there will be no more capitalism. They will all the [be?] Socialists.

And finally I said: You are talking about what my grandchildren will be seeing here. Maybe you would like to know what I think your grandchildren will be seeing in Russia. I don’t think the Soviet Union is static. There is a lot of evolution there. He said—yes, lots of evolution. And, I said, what I think we are going to see is a lessening of central bureaucracy and a growth of wider individual freedom, and my grandchildrens’ generation and your grandchildrens’ generation will be very much alike in essentials although politicians will go on talking a long time in the same old phrases.

He said—may God have pity on you. Then he turned to Mrs. Khrushchev and said: Isn’t it a sad thing to see a nice man all stuffed up with foolish notions? Come to the Soviet Union and we will polish you up.

On another occasion he said things like Buddhism, Mohammedanism, etc., were going across national boundaries.

I said—I think you think Communism is a religion.

He said—no, it is science of history.

Approaching Hyde Park I mentioned that I was in the Senate when Franklin D. Roosevelt was President.

He said—he was a Democrat and you are Republican.

I said—yes, but he was kind to me and when I left the Senate to go into the Army he wrote a very nice letter.

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He said when Truman came along there was the difference between day and night. If Roosevelt had lived things might have been different.

I said—there are also differences on your side—not just ours.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1473. Confidential. Drafted by Lodge. Another copy of this memorandum bears the President’s initials, the only memorandum of Lodge’s many conversations with Khrushchev initialed by the President. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File)
  2. For text of Khrushchev’s speech and the following question-and-answer session at the Economic Club dinner on Thursday, September 17, see The New York Times, September 18, 1959.