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Cyrus Eaton
5/17/1957

Cyrus Eaton, a successful Cleveland industrialist and businessman and outspoken critic of the United States' foreign and military policies, talks to Wallace about how Americans' freedoms are being destroyed by the Cold War.

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Transcript
THE MIKE WALLACE INTERVIEW
Guest: Cyrus Eaton
5/17/57

WALLACE: This is Cyrus Eaton, an industrialist who heads up a 2 billion dollar empire in coal, iron ore, and railroads. A man who says that one way to preserve the American way of life under which he's prospered, is to woo the friendship of the Soviet Union. As a first step Mr Eaton has sponsored several conferences among scientists from the free world and the communist nations. In a moment we'll find out why he sponsors those conferences and why he charges that the cold war is slowly but surely destroying our freedoms here at home.

ANNOUNCER: The Mike Wallace Interview, presented by the American Broadcasting Company, in association with the Fund for the Republic, brings you a special television series discussing the problems of survival and freedom in America.

WALLACE: Good evening, I'm Mike Wallace. In our fight to survive and stay free, we as a nation have had to modify some of the very freedoms we want to protect. Tonight's guest, Cleveland industrialist Cyrus Eaton, is one critic who says that we've gone too far; that in our efforts to cure a cold, we're killing the patient. Let's find out why.

Mr Eaton, you've made considerable news with your meetings up at Pugwash. You have financed these conferences among scientists of the free world and from communist countries like Russia and Red China. What do you think that you accomplish when scientists who are devoted to communism meet and talk with British and American scientists?

EATON: We demonstrated that men of different languages and different philosophies can get together and discuss crucial questions, come to a common understanding, and part great friends. And I think, uh, maybe the, one of the most important things we agreed on was that an all out war between Russia and the United States would be a catastrophe of the first magnitude. For instance, there was no difference of opinion on this subject: that in the first hour of such a war 75 million Americans would be killed and 25 million would be seriously wounded. These uh, scientists left agreeing to go back home and tell their governments of the great hazards we face unless we bring common sense to bear on our international problems.

WALLACE: Why do you hold these meetings up in Pugwash, which is in Nova Scotia, rather that here in the United States? -

EATON: It would be impossible, probably, to hold them in the United States because of the restrictions. Uh, the Chinamen would not be permitted to come in and if the Russians got in it would be with very great difficulty.

WALLACE: What kind of restrictions, you mean that our government would not permit –

EATON: - They would put many obstacles in the way, and uh, it would subject the people coming here to very great humiliations, that uh, I don't think any self-respecting scientist would submit to.

WALLACE: I gather, then, that you are not in sympathy with these regulations and restrictions.

EATON: I think they are unwise, and unnecessary.

WALLACE: The American scientists, uh, who went up there to talk with the Russians and the Red Chinese, were they willing to exchange ideas freely with uh, their communist colleagues? And was there equal freedom on the other side?

EATON: I think everyone was astounded that the freedom with which the communists discussed any scientific problem. He astounded everyone with his profound knowledge of scientific progress. I would say, perhaps, that of all the representatives who gathered at these, the man who was a little more cautious than anyone else for political reasons was our brilliant American representatives.

WALLACE: You, you say he was, the American was more cautious for political reasons, what do you mean?

EATON: Well, uh uh, if he was a professor from Harvard or from MIT or from Chicago or Illinois, uh, if he said anything that offended uh, political uh forces in this country, he would be aware that he might be called on the carpet then and subjected to serious examination. And I think in fact that most of our American, uh, participants, when they got back home, I think they were probably visited by the FBI and asked about what went on and what they said.

WALLACE: And uh, they did, as far as you know, told what went on?

EATON: Oh, very completely because there were no secrets. It was completely above-board, everyone said just exactly what he thought without any fear of uh, getting into trouble.

WALLACE: You mention the FBI Mr. Eaton. Let's turn to some security measures most of them products of the Cold War, that are taken by our government with the citizens here at home. For instance, yourself. Our search shows that as an officer of certain corporations engaged in defense work, you yourself have been fingerprinted and investigated by the FBI on three occasions. I wonder if you'd tell us why and what your reaction to this fingerprinting and investigation is.

EATON: Well, the, the officers and directors of the companies with which I am associated and that's true of most big American corporations we do occasionally some work for the government and it's uh, some of it is called classified. Why it's called that I don't know because none of it is really very secret. At any rate it is some of it is regarded that way and for that reason on each of these occasions a separate group examines the history of each officer, each director consults all the people who have known him for- in my case for a great many years as old as I am to see whether any time has passed- he had anything that he ought to be ashamed of, fingerprint him and go through all those uh performances which my way of thinking is quite a humiliation for a loyal and devoted American.

WALLACE: Well, what is wrong with finding out if a loyal and devoted- and devoted American, if indeed he is, is those things particularly you say, you say there is some doubt about the necessity for doing that because you are not sure the work should be classified. But in classified areas do you believe that these screenings, fingerprintings and so forth are superfluous?

EATON: I think so, they keep alive the spirit of suspicion which is one of the things that plagues us. Uh but there are no secrets uh in the industrial or scientific world any idea that anything we can do in America is a profound secret if it's done industrially or workmen and all other sorts of people are engaged in it. It's just a hallucination and it's uh it's just uh an emphasis of the uh importance of the police side of our uh government. To put us through that.

WALLACE: You say the police side of our government do you have any further views on the work of the FBI as it relates to individual freedom?

EATON: Well, I, I think it's had a tremendous build up. It's had wonderful uh propaganda. It has sold itself in a marvelous way. But I always worry when I see a nation feel that its coming to greatness through the activities of its policemen. And uh the FBI is just one of the scores of agencies in the United States that are engaged in investigation, in snooping, in informing, in uh creeping up on people. It uh it has gone to an extent here that I think it very alarming.

WALLACE: Well, now wait, let's stay with the FBI for just a minute. Mr. Eaton, from the time that J. Edgar Hoover was appointed its director back in 1924 more than 200,000 convictions have been secured in cases investigated by the FBI. That includes the case of Algar Hiss, of atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Harry Gold, David Greenglass, as well as the Russian spy Rudolph Abel who was captured last year. Now would you, are you in any sense suggesting that this work is unnecessary and that the FBI should go out of business in these areas?

EATON: Well, I don't think necessarily they ought to go out of business I think if they'd confine themselves to legitimate police work- But I think the importance is enormously exaggerated and that they make no contribution to the up building of this country or its respect abroad- that its uh literature and those who supported the publicity suggests.

WALLACE: Well, the fact remains though that the FBI has served to the satisfaction of five presidents. It recently had the overwhelming support of Congress when it asked for protection of its secret files and again as Mr. Hoover, Mr. J Edgar Hoover himself, has said the FBI is zealously watched by the Executive, the Judicial and Legislative branches of the government. Now, what more can you want?

EATON: Well, if uh if we want a police state uh that is all right. But if you add to the FBI, the scores of other agencies that are uh engaged in the same thing, for instance take the Central Intelligence Agency which one of its jobs is to uh check the FBI to see whether it is doing its duties. So you get one organization checking another and you get a state that uh I think this nation is not going to be proud of and I'm just as sure as I'm alive that one of these days there is going to be an enormous reaction against this in the United States because nearly every department of government now has its own investigators, its own police force and is creeping up on the citizens. I'm a farmer and even a poor farmer now, has representatives of the agricultural department come out to see whether they are sowing more oats than they ought too. And so it goes through uh almost uh probably a hundred other governmental agencies where they have investigations and police powers and uh...

WALLACE: Well let me ask you this, sir: obviously these branches, these police branches, if you will, are being established at the suggestion of persons who feel that they are necessary. Why do you think that we are, as you suggest, turning into kind of a modified police state ourselves?

EATON: Well, you know, you create, uh, an agency, uh, to rene-, to remove some abuse. When you remove that abuse you may create 20 others to take its place in the way you throttle and uh, restrict your people. Uh, take it in connection to scientists: I think our scientific development in this country has been enormously retarded because the scientist is conscious that the FBI is breathing down the back of his neck all of the time, scaring him.

WALLACE: Mmhm.

EATON: Won't even allow a man to talk to his wife about uh, secret things. We- we've gotten uh, uh, so uh, enhanced with the value of these uh, these things we've carried them to an enormous extent and we so praise the FBI. But if you had to take the police forces of the cities and of the counties and of the states and all of these governmental agencies, and add them up, uh, Hitler in his uh, prime never in, through the Gestapo never had such spying organizations as we have in this country today.

WALLACE: You really think that we have uh, uh, a more serious, a more far-reaching spy organization, you say this seriously, than the Gestapo of Adolf Hitler?

EATON: I, uh, I, I, I believe it profoundly and if I had time I would take nearly every governmental agency and show you their uh, their police force. Take the, uh, the Treasury Department, with its uh, 50 or 60 thousand uh, tax agents. Uh, uh, uh working in that field.

WALLACE: Mmhm, mhm.

EATON: Uh, uh. It's, uh, take the Department of State, with uh, all of their supervision over these visas and passports and the coming and going of people.

WALLACE: We must be a very insecure people if we feel the need for this kind of police supervision.

EATON: Uh, yes, I, I think we have less confidence in our people maybe than any nation that I know of, uh, on earth. We're certainly worse in that respect than the Russians.

WALLACE: Well how did we get this way? Here was an America that was free and independent, and suddenly we have turned, if we are to believe what you say, sir, into a, a frightened and insecure people. –

EATON: Two world wars and the prospect of a third one have created these conditions where it's always afraid that we would be doing something for our enemy. And uh, in the recently our enemy was Germany and Japan, and everyone was suspected of uh, me being pro-German or pro-Japanese. Now we're suspected maybe of not being friendly enough with Germany or with Japan and being against Russia and Red China. And it's uh, it's a spirit of suspicion that is unworthy of this great nation that is got to be uh, abandoned.

WALLACE: Well let's come directly to the issue though, that is involved. If we do feel insecure, we feel insecure because vis-à-vis Russia we feel perhaps they want to take us over, they want to attack us, that we have to defend our way of life against an un-free way of life. Last winter in a news conference, Mr Eaton, you said that there, and this is a quote, "there is more spirit of war in the United States than in any other country in the world." You've made similar charges both before and since, now on what do you base these charges, sir?

EATON: Take the pronouncements of the State Department or our representatives - United Nations almost every week, you'll hear this said: we're in a position for massive retaliation in times of our own choosing and our own place with the most deadly weapons the world has, uh, ever provided. Almost every day there goes out, from some department of government in the United States – Defense, or State – a boasting of our great power and what we're going to do to the other fella if he doesn't uh, behave himself. And when we say "behave himself," we want him to give up his philosophy and his way of living and adopt ours! Now ours is uh, of no doubt is better, but I don't believe we have any right to tell him that we'll shoot him to death if he doesn't uh, accept our uh, view of life and view of destiny.

WALLACE: Well, Mr. Eaton, I'm sure there are many people who differ with our foreign policy – many Americans who differ with our foreign policy; but they don't make the charges you have done that the Cold War, is America's fault. What forces, what people in America, are behind making the Cold War America's fault?

EATON: Mainly politicians. Mainly people in government office because they have believed that Communism is a frightful thing that ought to be destroyed; and that any suggestion that it be allowed to live is betraying our country and all of that's folly. We can't destroy it; it's there to stay. Russia. China. Nothing that we can make them do to give up Communism; or to overthrow them. They've more military power than we have. And I don't for one moment say that they are not without their very serious objectionable qualities. And I think that the original communist thought maybe he could persuade the world to accept his doctrine. But I am sure that any intelligent... Russian has now given up any notion that the United States could ever become communist. The only nation in the world that doesn't have a single source list. in its Senate or its House. The only nation in the world that doesn't have a large representation in its Parliament of people who believe in government ownership of everything. America is a capitalistic country. It's one that's devoted to free enterprise and to democracy; and there's just no power in the world that could kill us all. But you never could make communists out of us. And to imagine that you could is just silly.

WALLACE: Well, nonetheless, if it is silly... a good many of our politicians - not just the Republican politicians whom you've been quoting up until now; but the Democratic politicians and statesmen, as well, have been responsible for this Cold War. You yourself said "Twelve years ago the United States declared Cold War on Russia." And that was during a Democratic –

EATON: That's right. Well you see Mr. Dulles started with the Democratic party in the State Department and he continued to... right along under the present regime, only he has become more positive in the doctrines that were going then; but things have changed vastly in that time. In that time, Russia has performed scientific miracles that have astounded the world. And she has demonstrated that her power of retaliation is immense. And... but we still go on talking as if we were the strongest nation in the world, as if we could make any of our people adopt our... our view of life and our way of living.

WALLACE: But Mr. Eaton, is not the issue this: you object to certain police powers that have been arrogated by the state; have been taken over by the state? You suggest that we are losing certain of our freedoms. Someone who would disagree would say we're going to have to give up, or at least modify, certain of our freedoms to defend ourselves against a communist threat. You're suggesting that there is no communist... not... not that there is no communist threat; but that there is less of a communist threat than a good many of us feel. That is your interpretation. But President Eisenhower has warned, and he said, "The Soviet state daily increases its power; and its rulers make clear their purpose to use that power to dominate the world." Soviet dictator, Khrushchev, has told American viewers on television within the last year, "Your grandchildren will live under Socialism." And he has snarled at Western diplomats, "Whether you like it or not, history is on our side we will bury you." So, what I don't understand is how can any responsible government be anything else except suspicious and tough with Russia; and, therefore, a little bit careful about security measures here at home.

EATON: Yes. Well I don't mind being tough with them to a certain extent, but... to threaten them with massive retaliation, when we would go down in smoke and dust, doesn't seem to me to exhibit much common sense. There are no communists in America, to speak of, except in the mind of those on the payroll of the FBI. Those of us who see Americans every day, as I do, in every walk of life: educators, capitalists, working men, farmers, labor leaders – none of them are communists. And none of them are ever going to be. And we don't need any massive retaliation to keep them that way. But what we're doing is creating back-breaking debts, where we're going to wind up impoverished. We're giving up our freedoms and all for hallucinations. Russia is... got... taken on all she wants to.

WALLACE: Mr. Eaton, may just interrupt one second here? Was it not the United States which started unilateral disarmament immediately after the Second World War? And wasn't it the United States which propose world disarmament with a meaningful inspection system? And the United States which helped to establish a democracy in West Germany; and on the other hand did not the Soviet Union and Communism outrage the free world by subjecting Albania and Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia and Poland and Romania and Hungary more or less to the rule of bayonets.

EATON: Well I think probably we exaggerate what Russia has done there. I think if you take a vote in those countries, you might be surprised. But, however, that might be we have no power to change that. We demonstrated that in Hungary. We don't dare interfere. We've got to let time work those problems out. And one reason I'm in favor of these interchanges between Russia and America and the Russian scientist meeting the American. The more they see of us, the more they're going to admire our way of living and gradually, I believe, Russia's putting such emphasis on education, that I think that Russia's going to modify its internal system and that it's going to change its attitude externally –

WALLACE: Now wait! You're predicting a modification of an internal system in Russia, in what ways, sir?

EATON: As they become acquainted with what's going on in the world, as they make these great strides in their economic life – which they are making. They're not going to be interested in military exploits. They're going to want to enjoy their way of living; or a better way of living. They want to imitate American: better homes, better food, better clothing and more automobiles. And more of all the wonderful things that make life so attractive here. The Russian will do that if you let him alone; and let time work with you and the intelligence of the people and – they have people of the first intelligence and they have provided an education system that's now the marvel of the world. And if we have any faith in the evolution of humanity, we will let natural forces modify the Russian and his internal and external attitudes.

WALLACE: And we are constantly told, in the free world, by people whom we respect that it is necessary to have a massive force that will deter... that will deter the Russians from wanting to attack us. Do you feel that it is unnecessary?

EATON: If I can be sure of anything it is that the Russian today, whether it's the Russian government or the Russian scientist or the Russian people, they don't want war. As I've seen the Russian: he loves his children, he loves his grandchildren, he loves his country, he wants to get along. We are constantly beating the Russian bear; and that I think we ought to give up. If only two weeks ago, Mr. Dulles in the big press conference says that what we need to think about is how we can most effectively fight what we most hate... fight what we most hate – those are terrific words to use when speaking of a proud and powerful nation of two hundred and twenty-five million people that have military strength that's beyond anything that's ever been created in the world. Those are unwise and foolish words and oughtn't to be said by any responsible statesman in this country.

WALLACE: And how do you relate what he says and our position, our stance, against Russia with individual freedoms, for individual citizens here in the United States?

EATON: To carry out an all out war against Russia, we've got to give up every freedom; we've got to subject ourselves to a dictator to get things done. We've got to give up all the things we love, plus take on a burden of taxation that would finish us as a capitalistic nation anyway.

WALLACE: Let me ask you this question, which I have asked of some other persons whom I have interviewed recently. The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, Mr. Eaton, has said that if it came to the choice of a third World War - a nuclear war, an almost inevitable incineration - on the one hand and living under Communism on the other; he would take Communism. What about Cyrus Eaton?

EATON: I don't think that choice will ever have to be made. If we have an all out war, that's the end of all of civilization as created. All of our great enterprise will go.

WALLACE: But would you in the effort to avoid an all out war, however, would you suggest that you would be content to live under Communism?

EATON: No... I... no one in the world would be more unhappy under Communism than I would because I'm dedicated to the other principle. But I'm sure that that... such a choice will never be presented to one. I'll never have to make it. I would be most unhappy if I had to consider it. I-I like life, I want to live; but I don't want Communism. But I don't think I have to fight to avoid it.

WALLACE: Is... Is freedom necessary? It certainly has not been necessary in the Soviet Union.

EATON: No, the Russians have never had freedom; and take them some time to know what to do with it. But we in the Western world have had it. I sometimes think that we're a little optimistic when we refer to ourselves as the free world with a growing control of government over us; but we love it. And we'll go back to it very quickly; and the statesmen will arrive in this country very quickly that will say away with all these government regulations, investigations, restrictions, and let's be good, old-fashioned Americans.

WALLACE: And you do think that that time is coming, at least you hope that that time is coming, because you believe that freedom of course –

EATON: I believe it will come, I believe that statesmen will arise that will lead us in that direction.

WALLACE: Mr. Eaton, I certainly thank you for coming here from Cleveland and spending this half hour with us. As an industrial giant and financier, Cyrus Eaton has helped to make America great; and this does not necessarily make him an expert on history, Communism, or democracy. But when a man like Cyrus Eaton is alarmed, it should prompt the rest of us to be at least concerned about freedom's future. We have just heard one side of this issue. In the course of this series on survival and freedom, we intend to explore all sides. We plan to have at least one spokesman who believes that the so-called "liberal mind" is in itself a threat to our survival and freedom. Next week our guest will be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. You see him behind me.. He's Justice William Douglas, a vigorous critic of infringements on freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and the right of privacy. If you're curious to know why Justice Douglas says, "The American community is becoming less and less sensitive to the dangers of conformity and the loss of liberties." And if you want to hear what he thinks we should do about it, we'll go after those stories next week. Until then. Mike Wallace. Good night.