Department of State
Foreign Policy Briefing
March 27, 1962
Afternoon Session: 4:17 - 4:45 p.m.
The President of the United States
I indicated the other day, speaking in California, some of the things that I thought were encouraging. I don't think that we have fully realized the impact of the split between the Soviet Union and China upon the Communist Parties within the various countries of the world, who up to now have looked to Moscow, and who now find themselves, in some cases, in a state of split or paralysis because they are uncertain which way the roads lead.
In addition, the division itself can bring us harm; or can bring us good. If Mr. Khrushchev has to prove his revolutionary intensity, it may cause us harm. If the Chinese Communist theory were accepted - that the only way to bring about a Communist world is through international war and revolution; that the only way to bring about Communism in a country is revolution and class war; then, of course, that would be serious for us, too.
I do not mean to suggest in that speech, nor do I now, that we can look forward to the future with comfort. The Communists, I think, have lost a good deal in recent years because of the obvious failures of important principles upon which their system was based. But, on the other hand, all of us know, from our own experience, that there is nothing like organization and discipline. And whether that is in a political party, a labor union, a business organization, or those that are important in another context, as John Steward Mill said, "Those who have conviction are worth 99 of those who may only have interest." And the Communists have conviction, and though they may not be able to carry great numbers of people with them any more on the hard Communist doctrine or dogma; nevertheless, the effectiveness of their organization, their tirelessness, their commitment to force and power; their ability to maintain themselves once they have achieved great power, even against the hostility of the great mass of the people, this makes them a formidable rival to the interests of the United States.
In an entirely different context, I have seen the same thing in the Teamsters Union: a few people well situated can dominate a great mass of people. So that we should not take too much comfort from the fact that in case after case - for example, in the last Greek election, the Communist strength went down; and even in those places where they had a wider base of mass support, such as in Chile, it is because they have involved themselves in a popular front, or because they have put forward their program as a domestic one, a national one, a radical and liberal one, and not one based on the real dogmas of the Marxist system. All this indicates how complicated our times will be.
In the speech, which I imagine some references was made to, of a year ago last January, by Mr. Khrushchev, in which he described how the Communists would ultimately be successful, and how they describe the effectiveness of the wars of liberation, he also made one other point which has not been as noticed, and that is he said that the day the Soviet Union out produced the United States would be the turning point in the world's history.
My own feeling has been that the most significant and favorable event for the Communists in the whole fifties was the fact that they were first in space. Because it presented them to the world as a backward country which had become technically superior to the United States; and even though this may not have been so, it had an important impact.
If they area able by 1970, as Mr. Khrushchev says, or by 1980; or if they are able in this century to out produce the United States - agriculturally, industrially, consumer goods - then, in my opinion, one of the most effective arguments for the cause which we believe in will have been lost.
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