By Lewis W. J.
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Giving it the Nobel prize was a political act in the best sense of the word, for it put world pressure behind the struggle of Russia’s writers for greater freedom. If the masters of the Kremlin were wise they would have let Pasternak go to Stockholm and they would publish his book in Russian; such magnanimity and the book’s complete negativism about the Revolution would have been a telling answer to its thesis and their critics. Bigness, obviously, is beyond them. Whatever their folly, let us examine the mote in our own eye and remember that an American Pasternak who accepted a Soviet prize would be hauled up before the Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue.
Qxd 6/15/06 2:34 PM Page 27 Worth the Risk 27 There must be renewed recognition that societies are kept stable and healthy by reform, not by thought police; this means that there must be free play for so-called “subversive” ideas—every idea “subverts” the old to make way for the new. To shut off “subversion” is to shut off peaceful progress and to invite revolution and war. American society has been healthy in the past because there has been a constant renovating “subversion” of this kind. Had we operated on the bogeyman theory of history, America would have destroyed itself long ago.
6. Witnesses: The difficulty is made the greater by the mode of presenting evidence. In a criminal trial, the accusing witness must be produced in court and subjected to cross-examination. The right to confront one’s accuser is fundamental. The government may use informers, as in narcotic or smuggling cases, but it cannot come into court and ask for conviction on undisclosed evidence by undisclosed persons on the ground that to reveal them would endanger its sources of information. The conviction can be obtained only on the basis of whatever evidence and witnesses the government produces in open court.