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Henry Judd & Eva Evans

Hot Off the “United” Nations Griddle

“Iron Curtain” Balks Labor Action Reporters

(4 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 44, 4 November 1946, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

We got a tough assignment last week. “I want the goods,” said our editor. “The UN delegates are in town today for the opening session, and you’re going out to get an exclusive on Molotov and Vishinsky.” Well, we tried to tell him it couldn’t be done, but ...

So, we set out to cover the United Nations opening day, and interview the chief delegates of Russia. We went first to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, located on ritzy Park Avenue. A formal luncheon was scheduled in the Grand Ballroom of the hotel. There had been a reception at City Hall previously, for the 1,000 odd delegates, but we didn’t bother with that angle of the opening events.

The delegates had ridden, down through Manhattan, in their motor cavalcade, to be greeted by the acting Mayor of New York. President of the Assembly, Paul-Henri Spaak – Belgium’s left-wing socialist renegade, grown remarkably fat and sleek-looking on his success – complained at the City Hall reception about the “coolness and lack of enthusiasm” on the part of New Yorkers. Seems that the Wall Street white-collar workers hadn’t dumped enough ticker tape out of the windows when he passed. Manuilsky (David), Stalin’s stooge Foreign Minister for Ukrainia, also joined in this complaint.

The entire square block surrounding the gaudy Hotel was roped off by New York’s “Finest.” Hundreds of ex-GIs, now rookie policemen, dressed in their army clothing, were placed along the lines. A crowd of curious pushed around the hotel. We had arrived in time. Shrieking sirens informed us that the motor cavalcade was approaching from downtown City Hall. Headed by the inevitable motorcycle cops, a stream of cars swept up Park Avenue and rounded the corner, headed for the hotel garages.

Almost, But Not Quite

And then, as the traffic halted for a moment, within an arm’s length from us, standing on the corner, was the open car of the Russian delegation. Vyshinsky and Molotov, there was no mistaking those two gentlemen. Molotov, seated on the outside, and looking like a sleek old grey rat; Vyshinsky, likewise grey, but with slits for eyes and a sneer on his face.

It took no imagination to picture these two men in the roles they have filled. One, the cynical actor and bargainer; the other, the vicious persecutor of oppositionists, the hangman of the old Russian revolutionists. So these were Russia’s chief spokesmen, two bosom friends of Joseph Stalin! Ugh!

While we were trying to decide what to do at this moment, the cavalcade continued on its way. Almost as good as an interview, we figured, but we continued on our grim assignment and plunged right into the Waldorf-Astoria! Someone was making a speech, and we barely had time to grab a peek at the menu (stuffed pheasant and liqueurs were included) before one of New York’s “Finest” had us on our way again.

The General Assembly was scheduled to open at four o’clock, somewhere out on the Flushing Meadows (ex-World’s Fair), so we took a nickel ride out on the subway. Surely Molotov and Vyshinsky would be there! Spaak was going to open up the meeting with the first bit of gab, and then President Truman – he was coming here in his “Sacred Cow” – would follow him up. Out we went to Flushing. It looked like the war was about to begin all over again. Hundreds of cops, dicks, detectives, UN policemen, ex-GI rookies were lined up all over the place. We walked out to the old swimming pool (now the UN Assembly Hall).

And there it was – this “Iron Curtain” they’ve been talking about. It’s about 12 feet high, solid as Molotov’s loyalty to Joseph Stalin, and surrounding the area as closely as Vyshinsky’s GPU surrounds a nest of oppositionists. Massive Marine guards (dressed just Mike those recruitment posters) stood at the gates. A platoon of them came hup-hupping along the path surrounding the “Iron Curtain.” A small crowd – the Public – stood forlornly about each gate. But we persevered. We had Press Cards, had we not?

Just then the President’s car, “The Missouri Mule,” came screaming up the road, and sped into the enclosure. The delegates from Manhattan’s Waldorf followed after. All vanished into the Assembly building that seemed half a mile away. Numerous New York members of the social elite, dowagers, matrons and expensively dressed executive-looking types pushed at the gates, presenting passes. We went around to the Press Gate.

The Marine Captain, flanked on one side by a UN policeman and on the other by a UN bureaucrat, looked over our Press passes. “Labor Action – what’s that?” Your reporters had one foot inside the “Iron Curtain.” The other foot never got the chance to follow. “You need special press passes around here, buddy.”

We got home in time to turn on the radio and here the final pious words of our President, his usual appeal to God for help. As usual, Truman was putting all the emphasis on all the wrong words.

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