“If you don’t like this country, go back where you came from!”
In the years when rabid reaction swept through the country, this was the ###ry directed against every man and woman of alien birth who dared to think unpopular thoughts. It is still the taunt to foreigners who are in any degree non-conformist.
But my mind harks back to those years immediately after the war, when the taunt was not only uttered but put brutally into practice. Hundreds of foreign radicals were summarily deported.
In the forefront of those who defended the deportees, and who actually saved many of the victims from expulsion, was a lawyer by the name of Charles Recht.
It was Recht’s contention, and the contention of all who sided with him, that even a foreigner has a right to his views. They contended, and justly so that a man serves best the land where he lives and works by investigating and criticizing its institutions instead of accepting them blindly. The right to keep an open mind and to judge on the basis of one’s own mind, rather than accept the local views ready-made, is inalienable even to aliens. It is a right transcending boundaries.
NOW SOVIETS SAY IT
But curious and devious are the ways of orthodoxy, in every faith that ever came to be. In the current issue of the magazine “Soviet Russia Today” I find that identical reactionary taunt: “If you don’t like this country go back where you came from!” Again it is hurled against foreigners.
But in this instance the country referred to is the Soviet Union, and the foreigners referred to are Americans residing in Russia. Specifically, it complains against one William Henry Chamberlin, an American correspondent. Having lived in the Soviet Union and made a professional reputation there, it appears, Chamberlin did not have the common courtesy to hide his private views on the Soviet scene. Instead the ingrate wrote a book, “Russia’s Iron Age,” disclosing facts and opinions distasteful to the Kremlin.
Chamberlin’s book is described by the magazine as “a betrayal of the land which had given its author twelve years of hospitality and helped establish him in his calling.”
The clear implication is that, having accepted the hospitality, Chamberlin was honor-bound to conceal his views. Whether the Kremlin considers those views and those facts correct or useful is not the question at the moment. I am merely concerned with the principle as to whether a foreigner residing in an alien land is obligated to believe and to express only the official views.
The Soviet magazine takes precisely the same position as did the reactionaries whom Recht and his associates fought. Like those Redbaiters, it denies to an American in Russia the moral right to have his own mind and to express it.
The most fantastic of the facts in this story I save for the last. As an intellectual tid-bit and a commentary on the vagaries of the human mind under the stress of prejudice, sometimes miscalled logic, it is precious:
The review of Chamberlin from