The nations of the world are close neighbors who must now choose between two ways of living. One is the way of prejudice, suspicion, bitter rivalry, attempts to dominate by force, and mutual destruction. The other is the way of understanding, confidence, warm friendship, co-operation, and united efforts to build a decent and peaceful world.
To be a good neighbor requires not only good will but especially understanding. Good will is of course necessary, for envy, fear, and hatred blind the intellect to the truth. But good will is not enough. If democracy, be it American or Soviet in character, means anything to the common people it means that vital policies must be decided by individuals responsible to the common people. The people make the final decisions. And, to make correct decisions, they need adequate knowledge and insight as well as all the facts they can obtain about each other.
This book contains information contributed by people whose appraisals of the Soviet Union are widely respected. Too many of us have been too indifferent and have known too little about our Soviet neighbors. We have known too little about their ideals and ambitions, too little about their ways of working and living, their government, science, education, recreation, and arts, too little about their resources, customs, institutions, laws, and literature. As Dr. Geroid T. Robinson, of Columbia University, has aptly said, "Never did so many know so little about so much."
We have assembled in this volume materials written by outstanding students of Soviet life and culture. Our main purpose has been to provide significant evidence for those who are sincerely eager to learn the truth about the Soviet people. Friendship is a crossroad of many different roads and in the center of that crossroad is mutual understanding. As knowledge about our neighbors grows, perhaps we shall discover how much like ourselves they are; perhaps we shall better appreciate the reasons for their views and policies. The essence of democracy is the right to differ from others. Because differences in customs enrich the lives of neighbors, the Soviet Union has much to contribute to all the world.
No system of society is perfect. The crucial test of any way of life is not merely what it has accomplished in the past but especially the direction in which it is moving. What are its fundamental ideals? What progress is being made to fulfill these ideals? What can we learn from the experi-