In Reply to a USSR Peace Resolution: Pearson’s Speech to the United Nations

October 30, 1950

[ His Masters Voice ]

His Masters Voice, Unknown, 1963-04-01, American anti-communists had one view of Lester Pearson; Canadian nationalists had a different one. This cartoon circulated in Vancouver labor union halls in 1963

We are now nearing the end of what is becoming an annual occurrence at the [U.N.] Assembly – a general debate on the essentials of peace. I doubt whether these debates contribute much, if anything, to peace; or the resolutions which emerge from them and which will inevitably tend to repeat themselves, from year to year. It may in fact be argued that these discussions, by underlining and exaggerating differences, by the violence of the language used, create an atmosphere which makes peace more difficult. Headline diplomacy is not the best way to settle differences, especially when the headlines reproduce such Soviet phrases as “unbridled slanders,” “dirty insinuations,” “nonsensical babbling,” “maddened yelps of warmongers.” I have my own peace proposal to make. It is a two-year moratorium on bellicose and violent speeches about peace at the United Nations; and a two-year attempt to do something effectively about peace.

The Soviet resolution contains an appeal to the permanent members of the Security Council to work for peace and to conclude a pact.


If this debate has shown nothing else, it has shown [...] how tragically wide is the gulf that divides the two worlds, and how deep the fear that prevents that gulf being bridged.

Mr Vishinsky, speaking the other day, […] pins the responsibility for all this fear and division on the United States, the leader of what he calls the Anglo-American bloc. To support this charge, again to use some of his own adjectives, “this monstrous, slanderous” charge, he produced the usual newspaper and magazine reports of speeches and statements by Americans. This device has long since ceased to be convincing. […]

The truth is that the nations of the world outside the Soviet bloc know that the power of the United States will not be used for purposes of aggressive war. They know that the policies of the United States – though we may not always support them, or even approve them – are not designed to lead to war. If they were, they would soon isolate this country from the rest of the free world. We judge the United States as it would wish to be judged, not by Mr Vishinsky’s press clippings, but by its actions; as indeed we will judge the policy of the USSR by its reaction when the United States withdraws its victorious forces from Korea as soon as peace has been restored. Will Mr Vishinsky accept this fact as at least one piece of evidence that America is not trying to dominate the world?

We in Canada know this country and its people well. We know them as good neighbours who respect the rights of others, who don’t ask for or get automatic support from smaller countries through pressure or threats or promises. We know that they accept the fact that co-operation between large and smaller countries can only exist on a basis of mutual confidence and mutual respect. If the Soviet government would permit its people to learn the truth about the United States instead of filling them with information only about the worst features of its life and culture, they would make a real contribution to the removal of that fear, which is at present being installed, directly and deliberately, in the minds and hearts of the Soviet people.


Source: Lester Pearson, "In Reply to a USSR Peace Resolution: Pearson's Speech to the United Nations" in Words and Occasions, (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 97-98

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