The Charlotte News

Saturday, March 7, 1953


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that Georgi Malenkov was now the leader of the Soviet Union as successor to Joseph Stalin, who had died on Thursday after being stricken with a stroke the prior Sunday. The announcement had been made by the Kremlin the previous night, along with a wholesale shakeup of top Government personnel, including L. P. Beria, head of the secret police and the atomic energy program becoming head of the newly combined Interior and State Security Ministries, presumably in addition to his former duties, Deputy Premier V. M. Molotov being made Foreign Minister again, a post he had held between 1939 and 1949, replacing Andrei Vishinsky, the latter appointed as permanent Soviet representative to the U.N. In addition, Marshal Nikolai Bulganin, a member of Stalin's five-man war council during World War II, was named minister of the armed forces in place of Marshal A. M. Vasilevsky, the latter becoming deputy minister. Messrs. Beria, Molotov, Bulganin and Lazarus Kaganovich were all renamed deputy prime ministers and would, with Malenkov, form a new Presidium of the Council of Ministers, presumed to have an important place in governance. Marshal Klementy Voroshilov, formerly vice-premier, was chosen chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, replacing Nikolai Shvernik, a post equivalent to the presidency, though largely honorary. The latter was made chairman of the All-Union Council of Trade Unions, replacing Vassily Kuznetsov. Ten ministries were merged into three. The announcement said that the Supreme Soviet, the parliament in the Soviet Union, would meet in Moscow on March 14 to consider the changes.

In the Hall of Columns in Moscow, Stalin lay in state as thousands of Russian mourners continued to file past his bier on a bitterly cold day on which the temperature was below zero. The lines contained all kinds of people, old, young, middle-aged and children. Some of them had red eyes from crying and all were solemn, possessed of an air of expectancy that they were close to seeing something dramatic. There was a great hush amid a shuffle of thousands of feet, as they slowly made their way into the Hall. Associated Press correspondent Eddie Gilmore tells of his personal experience in viewing the dead dictator's body: "Look at the dead face, known in every corner of the world. The face is stern. The hair is brushed the way you always saw him. His mustache full and neat. His chin and jaw as resolute in death as in life. A strong face. Like the name Stalin, which means 'steel.'"

The new Government and the Communist Party announced that the body of Stalin, after the final rites would be administered on the following Monday at noon, would lie alongside Lenin in Red Square until a great Pantheon, a new temple to world Communism, could be built to receive their corpses, along with those of other Communist "immortals". There were no details provided on the form the rites would take.

Western Europe was preparing for a continuation of the cold war, as departure of European Communist leaders for Moscow to attend Stalin's funeral suggested that the Kremlin intended to keep its iron grip on world Communism. The Western press warned the West to remain strong and alert and cautioned the U.S. against provoking Russia into a hot war. There was also some fear expressed that the new Russian leadership might start a war, but most diplomats and newspapers looked for a continuation of Stalin's cold war policy, at least for the present. Malenkov was known in Europe as a man who wasted no love on the West and was a firm believer in Soviet military might. Some in the West believed the new Kremlin setup would tighten control and possibly result in a purge of those trained by Western contacts or influences. They believed that a fight for power would ensue, despite Malenkov having been chosen as the leader for the time being.

In Washington, members of Congress concluded that there was little hope for peace in the post-Stalin leadership in Russia. Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas saw hope, however, that some Soviet satellites might split away from Russia and that the U.S. ought explore the possibility of a break between Communist China and Russia, with Stalin's influence removed. The Senator suggested that Mao Tse-tung might become the Tito of Asia and break from Russian influence, provided he was given some unofficial encouragement. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee said that the danger under Malenkov might be increased, as he did not know as much about the power of the West as had Stalin, and thus might be more tempted to wage war. Many lawmakers believed that there would still be a scramble for power in Russia. Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona said that he believed it was significant that L. P. Beria retained his dictatorship over the secret police, as the rise to power in Russia always seemed to occur through that organization. Congressman John Taber of New York, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, cautioned against slashing the defense budget on the theory that the death of Stalin had reduced the chances of war.

In Copenhagen, diplomatic complications had multiplied this date among Denmark, Poland, Britain and NATO regarding the Russian-built MIG-15 jet fighter which had been landed by a Polish Air Force lieutenant on the Danish Baltic island of Bornholm two days earlier. The pilot, claiming to be a political refugee seeking asylum, was grilled in Copenhagen's police headquarters. A Polish minister delivered a second note to the Danish foreign office demanding that the plane and pilot be returned to Poland immediately. General Matthew Ridgway's Supreme Allied Headquarters in Paris was reported to be trying to persuade the Danish Government to retain the plane, as it was the first MIG-15 to fall undamaged into Western hands. Danish military authorities expressed shock and surprise to learn that a British air attaché had flown to Bornholm to examine the plane. Some sources indicated that the Danes had confiscated photographs which the British officer had taken of the plane's interior, but the officer, himself, said that he had gone to the scene to assist Danish experts and had turned over his film to them voluntarily. Official sources refused to say what would happen to the plane, but Denmark's top metallurgical experts had been asked to stand ready to analyze the secret alloys used in its construction. A high Foreign Office source said that Denmark was in no hurry to return the plane and that no final decision would be reached until the interrogation of the pilot was complete, that if he were found to be a bona fide refugee, he would be granted asylum and the jet possibly returned, but if he were determined to be a spy, both he and the plane would likely be retained.

In Korea, Chinese Communists waged two company-sized assaults against allied outposts on the western front this date and then withdrew, leaving an estimated 106 of their men dead, cut down by South Korean troops using rifle and machine gun crossfire, as heavier guns in the rear pounded the Chinese. The latter had attacked a second time a few hours later, but only halfheartedly, withdrawing after 30 minutes.

Senator Taft proposed this date a Congressional investigation of the conduct of the Korean War, telling reporters he believed it might be wise to broaden a pending inquiry into reported ammunition shortages to cover also circumstances surrounding the armistice talks and the handling of prisoners of war. The suggestion came in response to the testimony before Congress during the week by General James Van Fleet, recently retired as U.S. Eighth Army commander in Korea, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee that there had been shortages of ammunition for the troops, which had, at times, become critical, albeit having testified to the contrary before a House committee and in statements he had made the previous May.

In Charlotte, the City School Board this date received a detailed report on the multi-million dollar postwar building program, prepared in response to a series of articles in the Charlotte Observer pointing to alleged extravagance in school planning and construction. The Board had hired a consultant out of New York who prepared the report and presented it at a Board meeting the previous afternoon. The Board took no immediate action. The report had emphasized important savings in land purchases as a result of the planning and replied in detail to the statements contained in the Observer, indicating that there was no fat in such items as the use of Roman brick in the construction of Myers Park High School, showing that Roman brick cost no more than ordinary brick.

But how can that be, if they come from ancient Rome?

The Board asked the Mayor and the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners to appoint an advisory committee of citizens to review preliminary plans for City school buildings in the future.

We wish to know more about these Roman bricks. How were they shipped here, and at what expense? Were Roman hodcarriers employed, and were they unionized? What goes on here? This is not Italy.

On the editorial page, "The Teaching Profession's Competition" indicates that classrooms were overflowing and that legislatures around the country, anxious to economize, were looking skeptically at increased funding for education. On top of that, Congressional investigators were questioning the loyalty, beliefs and methods of many teachers. Questions had also risen regarding accreditation and consolidation of schools.

The annual report of the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., which administered the College Entrance Examination and other recognized examinations for higher education, had, at the request of the armed services, provided draft deferment tests to more than 400,000 young college men of military age, and the results had shown that men who were preparing to be teachers had done worse on the tests than any other group of students and that education majors were at the bottom in the quantitative tasks, at which science students normally excelled, and also in the verbal tasks, usually easier for liberal arts students. In addition, it found that those intending to become elementary educators were among the lowest of the low in the test results.

As those tests only regarded men, and women outnumbered men by about four to one in the teaching profession, it was possible that the skills of women were higher. But the piece doubts that the intellectual capacity of men and women education majors differed markedly. The problem was that the profession could not meet the competition in pay for young talent, who turned to other forms of employment. That prospect had been confirmed in a recent North Carolina Educational Association Bulletin, from which it quotes.

Teacher salaries had risen considerably in the previous few years but the fact remained that many of the younger people who would make good teachers and school administrators avoided teaching or left the profession, and as long as it offered considerably less pay and fewer perquisites than did other professions requiring a similar amount of education, the nation's schoolchildren would suffer.

"Final Recourse" indicates that Duplin County's State Senator Robert Carr, chairman of the House Senatorial Districts Committee, had held up bills for several weeks providing for redistricting of House and Senate seats to accord the 1950 census. The State Constitution required redistricting after each census, but the Assembly had not done so two years earlier and apparently planned not to undertake it again. Senator Carr said he did not know what his Committee would do with the bill, that he had not talked to the membership about it.

It indicates that when legislators showed a brazen lack of conscience, as in this case, there was a final recourse, that the people could turn them out of office for being defiant of the State Constitution, and recommends that the voters do so if the Assembly did not undertake redistricting during this session.

"An Uncertain Source of Revenue" again regards the Mecklenburg County Firemen's Retirement System, indicating that representatives of the System had suggested that an actuary's report on it had been too conservative, omitting the contributions from baseball games, benefits and the like, which they estimated at between $125,000 and $150,000 since the fund had begun in 1947. But those figures were far too high, and it explains the breakdown, showing that only $5,300 had come from the 1947 and 1948 baseball games and a 1950 barbecue, with the so-called extra revenue, which the firemen had touted, amounting to only $8,850 over the prior five years. It concludes, therefore, that the actuary had been correct in ignoring this income as inconsequential and highly uncertain as a source of revenue for the fund.

"Tit for Tat" indicates that another filibuster was looming in the Senate by those opposing giving the states tidelands oil areas. Those who favored the bill had often used the filibuster against civil rights legislation, and so it would be amusingly ironic for it to be turned against them. It suggests that there ought be a compromise between the civil rights advocates and the states' rights advocates so that the bills regarding offshore oil and civil rights could come to the floor and be judged by a Senate majority, permitting the body to get on with more pressing and less controversial business.

A piece from the Montgomery Advertiser, titled "Smith & Wesson Chamber Music", begins with a report out of Jackson, Miss., that the State Supreme Court had affirmed a three-year prison sentence of a man who had shot another for insisting on playing the "Tennessee Waltz" repeatedly. It indicates that it had warned about the danger of repeated playing of that tune without a doctor's prescription, that it found it wasteful of the Government to have spent millions of dollars trying to perfect nerve gas when the Waltz beamed at the enemy would be more demoralizing. The newspaper had reported the previous year that the Psychological Warfare Branch had beamed the Waltz at Chinese troops and they had not launched a major offensive since.

The man who was sentenced had shot at the other man three times, one hitting him in the mouth, one in his back and the third splattering a bottle of Hadacol, all because he had repeatedly fed the jukebox to play the "Tennessee Waltz". Despite the relatively lenient sentence of three years, the Court had upheld the sentence, making it plain that it was allowing for the cruel and unusual provocation to which the defendant had been subjected—a point for which editorial latitude was taken to great gird, as the validity of the sentence was not at issue. It again indicates that it had warned of public disorder from playing the Waltz, and had been ridiculed for doing so by men such as the editor of the Chattanooga Times, but no longer.

We cannot help but add that when the Court said that the verdict was "amply supported by the proof", it may have had in mind, when describing the defendant's desire for "an acceleration of speed thus set in tripping the light fantastic toe", about 90 proof, at least.

Drew Pearson comments that Prime Minister Winston Churchill may have displayed uncanny omniscience when he had sent a confidential message to the President via Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden that the chances of war had increased during the previous 30 days, obviously being unable to have known at the time of Stalin's impending death. But the fact of the death could lead to either world war or world peace, depending on the internal struggle in the Soviet Union. Mr. Pearson repeats his own diagnosis of the situation which he had sent from Berlin the previous month, indicating that the Communist leaders in the Kremlin needed scapegoats, accounting for the purges and pogroms. He had found that Russia was a long way from war and in no position to wage it, but that sometimes dictators started wars to divert attention from their own failures, the greatest danger in Europe at present. He had pointed out that there were only about 45 million Russians in the Soviet Union and the overall policy of the Kremlin was to control other parts of the Soviet zones, from Mongolia to Czechoslovakia and from Turkestan to Poland, for the sole benefit of those 45 million Russians. Those expected to raise more crops, build more factories and lay more railroad lines for the benefit of those Russians were restless and rebellious as a result, leading to nationalism being added to the grounds for treason. He had found that the greatest likelihood of revolt was in Poland, where peasants were seething over crop quotas and collective farms. Other areas of restlessness included the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Georgia, Armenia and Turkestan.

He pointed out that in 1914, the Russian military, fearful of unrest at home, wanted war, explaining why the Russian military attaché in Belgrade had been in contact with the Serbian assassins who bombed Archduke Franz Ferdinand's car, touching off World War I. It had also explained why Russia immediately came to Serbia's defense by declaring war against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as the little group of generals around the Czar needed a war to keep their shaky empire together, the biggest danger in Russia at present. He had pointed out that coupled with that danger was the fact that Stalin was the most suspicious man in the world, laying out the results of that suspicion, including the purge trials of the Thirties in which top Russian military leaders had been shot.

But he had also stated that Stalin was shrewd enough to understand that his empire had bitten off more territory than had the czars and was in no condition to wage war. He had recognized, however, that Stalin was old and had little time left to live, questioning whether his successors would share the same view or do what the generals around the Czar had done in 1914, concluding that it was the largest question in every European chancery.

He adds that the Russian willingness to risk war had been demonstrated over Japan the previous month more than the U.S. public had realized, in the ten-minute air battle between American and Russian planes over Hokkaido. Secret cables had revealed that the planes had actually engaged in combat for those ten minutes.

Marquis Childs indicates that while the death of Stalin had temporarily eclipsed everything else going on in Washington, that event would soon pass unless there was a total collapse in the Soviet Union, and the continuing problem of the division between the White House and the Republicans in Congress, and especially the Senate, would again grab center stage. The latest manifestation of it was the insistence by Senator Taft and fellow Republicans in the Senate on adding language to the resolution proposed by the President to denounce Russian perversion of the World War II agreements between the Big Three, resulting in the enslavement of peoples in Eastern Europe by the Soviets, adding the language that by condemning the enslavement, the Senate did not intend to endorse the agreements, themselves.

In an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Dulles had made an eloquent case for adoption of the resolution in the form in which it had been submitted, pointing out that if it were made the subject of partisan bickering and then passed only by a small majority, it would have little or no value as a declaration to the world of U.S. conviction and as a sign to enslaved peoples that the U.S. had faith in their ultimate freedom.

But then Senator Alexander Smith of New Jersey, at the prompting of Senator Taft, added the language, rendering the resolution meaningless. It did not repudiate the Yalta and Potsdam agreements, as the Republican extremists wanted, but by stating that it was recognizing neither the validity nor the invalidity of the agreements, it rendered the original denunciatory language of the resolution ridiculous.

As the resolution was intended only as a propaganda weapon, the damage might be minimized, but it had been the first constructive move by the new Administration toward a new and positive foreign policy, and the upset caused by the Republicans did not give the world a hopeful prospect for the future.

Another and more crucial test was yet to come, with Senator Joseph McCarthy, chairman of the Government Operations Committee, having demanded of the State Department two loyalty files of two employees of the Voice of America. Previously, President Truman had refused requests by Congress for such raw files, on the recommendation of the FBI that release of the files to Congress would be inappropriate as they contained unevaluated gossip and rumor. As executive orders carried over from one Administration to the next, most believed that President Eisenhower would have to undertake affirmative action to cancel the order by President Truman, before the State Department could comply with the request of Senator McCarthy. If that were to occur, the Senator would appear as the real master of the executive branch. Senator Taft could assert his leadership and let it be known that he opposed such requests by Congress and that if a question of subpoenaing such records arose, that he would exert his influence against it.

Joseph & Stewart Alsop suggest that Roman history might be a guide to what was happening in the Kremlin at present, as when the Emperor Tiberius was dying and at the end his coma simulated death, deceiving Caligula, who donned the Emperor's ring and accepted congratulations, only to have Tiberius rise and call out, at which point Caligula saved himself by helping to strangle Tiberius in his bed.

Most American diplomats familiar with the Soviet Union had already assumed that Joseph Stalin was dead as soon as they heard the announcement of his illness the prior Monday. The question they found hard to answer was who would be his successor. There were two schools of thought on the matter, the first understood to be tentatively accepted by former Ambassador to the Soviet Union George Kennan, that there would be a mortal struggle for succession which had already begun and was convulsing Soviet society even before Stalin had succumbed to a stroke. This group believed that the Politburo had been sharply divided for a period of several years regarding the crucial problem of staffing the Communist Party Secretariat, which controlled all patronage in the Soviet Union. Stalin, himself, had won power through the Secretariat by placing his own men in key posts. More recently, the Secretariat had been the stronghold of Georgi Malenkov, Stalin's favorite. The issue before the Politburo, as it was argued, was whether the long-delayed postwar reorganization of the Communist Party would confirm control of the Secretariat by Malenkov. On that issue, it was believed that V. M. Molotov and all the other senior members of the Politburo were in firm opposition, and that because of this split, the official Communist Party Congress had been put off from year to year until the prior October.

Three things had occurred at the recent Party Congress. The Politburo had been dissolved or at least transformed into a new, larger body, the Presidium. The Secretariat was reorganized to include only three former Politburo members, Stalin, Malenkov, and Nikita Khrushchev, plus a group of obscure officials supposed to have been drawn from the Malenkov faction. That apparent victory for Malenkov was not considered truly final, according to the theory, but rather Stalin only appeared to be confirming the power of Malenkov while in fact inaugurating another war to the death between the Party factions, occurring along the same pattern following the death of Lenin, when Stalin had encouraged each rival group to kill another until only Stalin remained. According to that theory, the struggle would be intensified after Stalin's death.

But an opposing view had stronger support in the State Department, holding that the Party Congress had instead marked the conclusion of the struggle for power and the final triumph of Malenkov. Those who held that view considered the new purge a kind of blood sacrifice to celebrate the success of the latter. They pointed out that the great purges of the Thirties had only started after Stalin had gained absolute power and were the sacrificial signal of his victory, as in ancient Rome.

During the months and years which would follow, there would grow a theory of conspiracy surrounding the death of Stalin, putatively hatched by L. P. Beria for self-preservation against purge, as portrayed in a 90-minute "Playhouse 90" presentation which aired September 25, 1958, and apparently also shared in a variant form in some quarters in Russia to present times. To what extent there was reality behind this theory is susceptible of little, if any, proof from a closed, totalitarian secret society as was the cold war Soviet Union. It would be impossible to discern truth out of the fog of Soviet propaganda and Western counter-propaganda, leaving only, apart from informed speculation, the spare facts, that Stalin, at 73, had known heart problems which had persisted for years, as far back as the Yalta Conference in early 1945, and had only grown more severe with time, was believed by most informed sources, as recounted above by Drew Pearson during his recent visit to Berlin, not to be long for the world in 1953, speculation about his successor having persisted for the prior couple of years.

Similar to the conspiracy theory which arose shortly after the death of FDR on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, that he had been killed by a German agent associated with the Russian-born portrait painter who was with the President in his last hours, after the President had suffered the debilitating physical effects of polio for 24 years, the death by other than natural forces of time and ill health is no more capable of proof in the case of the Russian dictator. Exhumation and tests for traces of poison might dispel the notion of a murder plot, or might only stimulate more fanciful conjecture, as that contained in the "Playhouse 90" presentation. That Stalin was alone when stricken at his then-secret country estate and, because he was so closed off from the world for self-imposed security reasons, remained undiscovered and untended by doctors for nearly an entire day after the stroke, appears now to be uncontested, and undoubtedly was contributory to his demise. L. P. Beria would be tried and convicted of trumped-up charges of treason, stemming from conduct authorized by Stalin during World War II, and shot, along with others, in December, 1953, part of the predicted bloody purge following Stalin's death. Thus, to attribute Stalin's death to a conspiracy hatched by Beria fit an additional rationalization for the latter's elimination, persisting as a threat to those in power as long as he controlled the secret police apparatus.

It is nevertheless of interest historically to note in the "Playhouse 90" presentation the scheming, yet avuncular and quasi-comical, Jekyll-Hyde portrayal of Nikita Krushchev in the hypothesized plot to kill Stalin, as the smiling but often irascible Krushchev had just come to power as Premier six months earlier, in March, 1958. Some of the irony in casting, including the narrator, Cliff Robertson, who would, in 1963, play Lt., j.g., John F. Kennedy in the film "P.T. 109", released in June of that fateful year, and that Mr. Robertson would appear in the immediately following "Playhouse 90" presentation, airing October 2, 1958, "Days of Wine and Roses", directed by John Frankenheimer, should not escape notice as well, especially when juxtaposed to the notion that print, visual and aural media may, when not adequately processed critically at or close to the time perceived to limit and avoid its undue effect on the psyche, come, in time, consciously or unconsciously, subtly to impact the beliefs which one eventually adopts as reality, forgetting in the meantime the original basis, whether founded in fact or fiction, some of this, some of that, for the web of assumptions underlying those beliefs.

A letter writer from Joanna, S.C., thanks the newspaper for putting the "Daily Prayer" back on the front page and for its series of "Lenten Guidepost" articles. She finds it to be inspirational and helping to know God and his love.

Again, Bob Hope will be very pleased to hear that.

A letter writer finds it an excellent time for the people of the state to think seriously about taxes in general and income taxes in particular, believes it would be appropriate to reduce the burden of North Carolina income tax and suggest that it be done by way of increasing personal exemptions or providing credit for Federal income tax paid, urges taxpayers to rally behind the cause.

A letter writer from Morris Field thanks the Veterans Committee of the General Assembly in Raleigh for what they had done for veterans and says he was certain it was a great inspiration to the soldiers going to Korea to know that if they lost a limb or an eye, they could return home and obtain a license plate for their car for a dollar, provided they were not too handicapped to drive. He favors the Assembly giving themselves a raise and cutting their work week in half.

A letter writer found informative the newspaper's Health Edition of February 27, but also found that it fell short in not covering other forms of health care available than that provided by conventional doctors.

A letter writer from Campobello, S.C., indicates that the South Carolina Senate had killed a bill which would have given the voters a chance to change the State Constitution, and he thinks it appropriate, as he had heard a Senator from Massachusetts say on July 4, 1901 that South Carolina had the best Constitution of any state.

A letter writer from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., indicates that on February 23 over WTVJ in Miami, there had been a program on "Studio One", titled "The Show Piece" by Booth Tarkington, starring James Dunn. In the play, a young girl and boy, appearing to be in their mid-teens, played a love scene which she believes should only have been presented in burlesque, as they had been dressed in scanty bathing suits and engaged in a caress, "rolling around on a blanket vigorously rubbing their mouths together." She wondered as a result whether censorship had been eliminated. She finds it, along with continuous smoking and drinking, to be demoralizing to impressionable youth. She indicates that people who made those films had begun years earlier to stop all opposition through subtle propaganda, such that anyone who raised a voice against it was portrayed as a "poorly dressed, ignorant, half-witted, soured-on-the-world old busybody", which had deterred the strongest advocates of decency. She advocates formation of a "Legion of Decency" as formed by Catholics some years earlier. She warns that otherwise, the situation would grow gradually worse.

No, it won't, not any worse than that "Studio One" trash. Switch over to something salutary, such as "The Lone Ranger", with nothing but good old-fashioned gunplay and no kissing and rolling around in bathing suits. Get your mind off of those writhing young bodies, caressing and kissing all over each other's mouths.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links
Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i><i><i>—</i></i></i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date Links-Subj.