Chapter XXIV

THE UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION


The people of the world have permitted themselves to become controlled by centralized political power under the dominion of which they regard themselves as quite helpless. The most potent existing system of world organization is that of political governments. Since this is the force that makes and conducts war, it is to this force the people must look for immediate steps in the prevention of war.

Political governments of the world are central authorities with many subdivisions under them. National governments are federations of their subsidiary districts or states. National governments regulate to a degree their subdivisions. Ultimate federation must be that of the nations of the world into a single body as a superior power exercising jurisdiction for its constituent member nations. This final one political organization should be a superior federation with equitable representation from each nation. Such a world government should provide quota limitations of the production and possession of armament and the other devices employed in the destructive practices of war. It should maintain also a world peace force, to prevent aggression of one nation against another, and to apply force where force is needed beyond the power of the constituent nations.

Dangers reside in setting up such a sovereign world power. It tends to stabilize certain world conditions as they exist at the time the sovereignty goes into effect. This means that many injustices would be fixed and maintained by force. Since ownership of most property is based originally upon force, theft, or fraud, with no hope of restitution, these conditions will have to be recognized and condoned, in so far as they can not be remedied. Peace has to start some time. If it can improve the conditions of civilization, as it should, pre-existing injustices should be adjusted with time and circumstance.

The danger is that the world force might be used to establish injustices as permanent fixtures and thus preserve an unbalance in society. The Haves and the Have-nots may be prevented by force from adjusting their differences. A police power maintaining a state of injustice is not a nice situation. Where injustice prevails, morals perish and men decay. This is true of communities; it is true of nations. To prevent people from getting what they want and what is for their good applies to raw materials, lands, minerals, goods, and other wealth.

The United Nations, now in process of development, it is hoped, will create a world sovereignty which will unite the nations and guarantee world peace. The United States has not yet sufficient confidence in the United Nations to give it whole-hearted support nor to relinquish its own sovereignty in all fields. It was the same with the League of Nations following World War I. The United States remained out of it and thus prevented its consummation. The League of Nations failed to function also because the powers that did join it refused to give up national privileges in the interest of a community of nations. Russia also resists yielding its national sovereignty and thus obstructs a federation of nations of the world. Just here is the difficulty with the United Nations. The nations, or "powers" as they are called, composing the Security Council, are represented by diplomats. Each is trained and instructed to plan, fight, and intrigue for the interests of his own political government--for the government whose agent he is. It is not altogether easy for these minds to entertain the idea of the interests of all mankind. Furthermore, legislative bodies and the people themselves of many of the nations involved look to their diplomats to do a shrewd job, to yield as little as possible, and to get all they can, rather than to build a world unity.

The United Nations Organization was set up by countries committed to the profit motive, and accordingly it reflects their character. Its charter is nationalistic. That was the best that could be gotten in 1945 when it was made. As adopted, it provided for a federation of states with power vested in a small minority of the larger members; a Security Council with little authority; an Assembly in which all member nations might participate in discussions; a World Court; a Secretary General; and an Economic and Social Council. The United Nations Organization fails to constitute itself into a sovereign world power because the big nations have not yet been willing to relinquish their sovereignty to something above them. This takes time and education. Provision is made to prevent imperialism, to protect weak states from control of more powerful states, to restrict production of armaments, to enforce disarmament, to limit military conscription, and to lay a foundation for peace. These are all among the possibilities toward which the Organization aims.

World government is made especially difficult by the attitude of the Russian communist regime. The Russian government refused to accept the very moderate restraints provided by the charter of the United Nations. In 1948 it was obvious that Russia was not willing to become a part of a democratic world federation of nations. There may have been some justification for this in Russia's fear of the United States as a predominating force. The latter has displayed a disposition to yield sovereignty at a time when compromise could help break down hostility and build unity. The charter of the United Nations was a beginning and was susceptible of modifications. These are slowly being effected. The charter holds up ideals toward which to aspire. After sufficient discussion and education it should be revised to provide for a world government.

In the General Assembly, all member nations--great and small--participate. It provides a forum for discussion. It has limited power. The Assembly and the Economic and Social Council are the most promising departments of the United Nations. Here representatives of the people may speak for democracy. They are hopeful political instruments for world Peace. The United States is the most powerful influence in the United Nations Organization.

At the time these lines are written the American people themselves, as well as their Government, are more concerned with wining the next war than with preventing it. Their thought is to pile up armaments and to spend billions on making sure of great striking power. Propaganda carried on by the Army and Navy, in the interest of their own aggrandizement, for which the people pay in fabulous amount, breaks down public interest in prevention of war. Given the idea that war is inevitable, there is nothing else for them but to think of winning it. If the country maintained a department for prevention of war, a different kind of propaganda might be employed. If admirals and generals and the vast machinery they control could be turned to the cause of peace, and if their rewards were increased as peace was guaranteed, and if their rewards declined as peace failed, the public attitude would be for peace, because the public would be subjected to a different kind of propaganda. The United States has a War Department which now functions within the Department of Defense. It needs to take one more step and become the Department of Peace.

The dominant psychology of the people is a product of the prevalent economic and political methods. It is not peculiar to the capitalistic powers, but is found quite as conspicuous under socialist governments. Fortunately the setup of the United Nations is not wholly diplomatic and political. Its Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization provides a machinery for important affairs with which diplomats and politicians are not conversant. Many departments of the United Nations, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization, are planned to promote peace and stability; but unfortunately all the machinery which has direct social value and possibilities of rising above chauvinistic nationalism is subject to the control of the political diplomats. As a result the program moves slowly and with many signs of discouragement.

The people of the world wish so earnestly for peace and there are so many people of good will and intelligent thinking that success for the United Nations may be expected. The people of both the United States and of Russia want peace so greatly the political powers of each of these obdurate countries must in time compromise and yield some of their prerogatives for the sake of a world sovereignty. If this is the only way to prevent war, the price may not be too high. Nations in giving up some of their authority sacrifice but little. Each would still retain full sovereign power in its internal affairs. Sovereignty would be yielded to the world government in matters of dispute between nations, and only rarely in matters of dispute within nations. National sovereignty needs such control. So long as an all-powerful country has the right to say "I will make war on any nation when I want to," war is sure to come. But where that right has been transferred to a superior power, peace is protected. A World Court is as essential as a World Security Council. International law, or better an international code of agreements, is a pressing world need.

If the United Nations Organization is to succeed as a peace organization, it must have an economic basis. This can be attained through its Economic and Social Council. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is important because it represents the basic and cultural features of this world federation. It is in relationship with the Economic and Social Council and gives the U. N. its social significance. UNESCO, set up in 1947, takes cognizance of the more important matters. It provides for nonpolitical movements and would give them a voice. It recommends establishment of "national committees of nongovernmental organizations for educational, scientific, and cultural reconstruction." The constitution of UNESCO pledges its signers to "the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth" and "the free exchange of ideas and knowledge." This is the sort of thing to which the nondemocratic nations object. Through UNESCO, ideals are expressed and even acted upon, and sometimes accepted. There is value in discussion of ideals even though they can not be implemented. The Atlantic Charter, enunciating the four freedoms, served a useful purpose although its makers never put it into effect. Formulation and enunciation of peace plans by organizations and even by individuals, which never go into operation, are all contributions to the promotion of peace. Every peaceful expression is of use.

The United Nations Organization is depending too much on political representatives of the diplomatic sort. It expects the people to have faith in political methods which have so often betrayed them. The U. N. charter failed to provide for a world government. Still the framework can be used for the construction of such a federation. Diplomats are in command where the people should be in command. Not an organization of governments, but a nonpolitical organization of the peoples of the world should be the force behind the United Nations. This is not easy. It can come about only by an awakening of the people to their responsibilities as citizens of the world. Back of this is the individual morality of these citizens. Morality is a human attribute. Its origin is with the individual. An organization is not moral excepting as its individual members are moral. Individual morality needs to be translated into national morality and national morality into world morality. With this accomplishment only can there be feeling and action in the interest of world justice--justice for all peoples.

The people of the United States were once citizens of unfederated states, and each citizen bestowed his patriotic allegiance on his state. The states became federated under the Constitution of the United States of America and each citizen took on a larger citizenship. He bestowed his patriotism upon the larger federation, and thought of himself first as a citizen of the United States. Still this federation, at its beginning, was looked upon with doubt. A British publicist at the time of adoption of the Constitution of the U. S. wrote: "As to the future grandeur of America, and its being a rising empire under one head, it is one of the idlest and most visionary notions ever conceived even by writers of romance. The mutual antipathies and clashing interests of the Americans . . . indicate that they will have no center of union and no common interest. They never can be united into one compact empire under any species of government whatever: a disunited people until the end of time, suspicious and distrustful of each other, they will be divided and subdivided into little commonwealths or principalities . . ." His prediction included internal confusion and bloodshed. But his predictions were wrong. The U. S. federation succeeded. If federation is possible at the national level and all levels below, it would seem to be possible at the one remaining level above the national level.

How can control of such federation be brought closer to the people themselves? First is education. The common man must be taught from childhood that he has a responsibility beyond his own egocentric circle. He needs to be taught that the great society of the world about him profoundly influences his happiness, that the circle in which he lives is as great as the world, that he can influence world affairs as well as his personal affairs, and that world affairs are his personal affairs. His influence reaches the larger society when he unites with his neighbors locally to do things that make for his and his neighbors' good and when his local organization through superior federations of expanding groups ultimately is part of a world organization. A world organization of citizens then finds itself on an international level where it impinges upon the United Nations and other world federations functioning in terms of world harmony. The International Cooperative Alliance occupies such a position. It has representation in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and its influence should expand. The International Labour Office is in a similar position. Other nonpolitical organizations can do the same. These aggregations of citizens, reaching up to the international level and exerting their influence upon the political diplomats represent a hope for world democracy. For democracy can not survive in the atmosphere of political diplomacy without freshening currents coming up from the plain people.

The Cooperative League of the U. S. A. proposed that industries of the Ruhr Valley in Germany be organized cooperatively. Mr. Murray D. Lincoln, president of The League, discussed the proposal with the President of the United States with favorable response. The proposition provides that an international authority be created for the purpose. Under the cooperative plan industries of the Ruhr would be administered and would produce in the interest not of German capitalists but to satisfy the needs of all countries concerned. This is a matter for the United Nations which might wisely take this great industrial center out of the field of war-promoting. This same economic principle is equally applicable to all major industries.

The Conference on Freedom of Information and of the Press, convened by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations at Geneva in 1948 had among its delegates Mr. Thorsten Odhe who represented no government but who came from the International Cooperative Alliance. This Conference representing 55 nations took actions of consummate significance which had all been advocated and worked for by the Cooperative Alliance for many years. These actions provided for (1) freedom to travel in the interest of gathering and transmitting news and ( 2 ) no censorship of news in peace time. Freedom of thought and expression were defined as essential human rights. It was agreed that everyone should have the right to freedom of thought and expression and that this right should include freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers. It was resolved that measures be taken to promote freedom of information through elimination of political, economic, technical, and other obstacles likely to hinder free flow of information.

This all makes for a new spirit of international comity and understanding among nations. It is aimed to break down barriers which countries such as Russia set up to prevent the native people learning of better conditions prevailing in other countries. In the interest of such freedom of news, the International Cooperative Alliance has created an International Cooperative Press Agency out of the extensive cooperative press to establish a news exchange to promote freedom of information. The International Cooperative Alliance, dating back to 1895 and already reaching into forty countries, is the greatest of all nonpolitical world organizations. It will be described in another chapter.

Whatever is done, the United Nations, in some form modified to meet world needs, must succeed. It is the last chance of this epoch to build world security and to save mankind from the fate which is poised to strike. The hydrogen bomb, bacteriological warfare, fire, and deadly destruction await the moment of their release, to hurl themselves at what remains of civilization, if the United Nations fails and nations are again free to rush at one another as of yore. This is the calamity that must not come to pass.

The various representatives of member states in the United Nations Organization, the personnel of the secretariat, clerks, translators, and other delegates with their families number several thousand persons now resident at Lake Success near New York City. These people within the United Nations Organization have in their own interest set up a cooperative consumer society to supply their needs. More than fifty nationalities are in its membership. The first board of directors was composed of representatives from twelve countries. A food store, an automobile service station, credit union, book store, and restaurant are operated. Medical and dental service are in process of organization. The membership of 500 families with over $12,000 capital is rapidly growing. Here within the very machinery of the United Nations is an example of successful business carried on by the method which the United Nations might wisely hold up for world-wide adoption. Here before the eyes of an infinitely complicated and cumbersome political organization is practical internationalism as a simple object lesson showing the way.


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The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.