Helen Keller Reference Archive

End the Blockade of Soviet Russia!

First Published: New York Call, November 10, 1919
Source: Helen Keller: Her Socialist Years (International Publishers, 1967)
Transcription/Markup: Anonymous/Brian Baggins
Online Version: Helen Keller Reference Archive (marxists.org) 2000


I am glad to join the People's Freedom Union and other friends of liberty in condemnation of the blockade of Russia by Japan, Great Britain, France and the United States of America. This outrage upon a people who are trying to work out their form of government, their ideas of life, upon their own territory, is one of the blackest crimes in history. The allied and associated governments which are guilty of this infamy violate every principle of civilization, every rule of common honesty.

For our governments are not honest. They do not openly declare war against Russia and proclaim the reasons. They are fighting the Russian people half-secretly and in the dark with the lie of democracy on their lips and the indirect weapon of the blockade in their hands.

We cannot remain silent while the government for which we are partly responsible assists in starving women, children and old people because, forsooth, our political rulers and perhaps a majority of the American public do not approve the ideas which underlie Russia's experiment in a new type of society. No thinking American can be silent, can fail to be on one side or the other. There can be no middle ground. Those who are not for fair play to Russia, for the removal of all alien soldiers from Russian soil, for the lifting of the blockade, are Russia's enemies. And Russia's enemies are the friends and upholders of Czarism, of oppression, of exploitation, of the plunder of one people by another. Silence in this case is not neutrality in a mere problem of politics and trade. Every word of sympathy for the men, women and children of Russia, whom the allied governments are trying to starve into submission to the interests behind those governments, is a word on the side of humanity and progress.

What quarrel have our people with the Russian people? We may disagree with their ideals and we have a right to disagree. If their ideals are not ours, we need have no fear of them, for they cannot supplant our own ideals, whatever our own may be.

Has the truth been told about Russia? The whole truth cannot be known because it is too vast and complicated and involves rapidly developing events. But have not our people been deliberately supplied with falsifications appealing to their fears and their prejudices to make them hostile to Russia and its present government?

Hold any opinion you may happen to hold about Russia and its government. It is wrong to attack Russia without an open declaration of war and an avowal of the true causes. That is simply honest politics in accordance with the Constitution of the United States.

Above the Consitution and the laws of politicians are the laws of humanity, justice and right, embodied in the Declaration of Independence and so often eloquently invoked by President Wilson when he was urging us into a war against Germany with Russia as one of our Allies. And now Germany is being urged to join our Allies and associates in a war against Russia. Can all this shifting of alliances, this change of partners in a few months any longer deceive us? We fought and helped win a war to make the world safe for democracy, for ideals. That war is finished and our ideals are, of course, established. What ideal is served by this war, this actual war against Russia, denied by the State Department and carried on by the War Department? And of the generous vocabulary of libery and justice and humanity which has been strained and worn during the past few years, what is left to apply to this war to make it seem right to the heart and conscience of Americans?

It is not enough to express our feelings about the treatment which our government is according Russia. It is not enough to defend one part of democracy. All democracy must stand together. All humanity must be humanitarian or all will perish. We cannot divorce an unrighteous intervention in Russia, nor the attack of France and Rumania on Hungary, from the theft of Shantung. For they are only specific evils in a world-wide evil, and we must cure them to maintain ourselves and all mankind in health and happiness. We must oppose hypocrisy, greed, murder, wherever we find them in order to save ourselves and the rest of humanity. If the President and his administration will not apply to Russia and to every other country, including the United States of America, the principles which he has expressed over and over again, we must bring pressure to bear upon our government. We must appeal to the citizens of America to regard with suspicion the news from and about Russia which is printed for them every day, and to demand the enforcement of the President's own proposition that every nation has a right to govern itself, to self-determination.