Year XXVI, 1984, Number 2 - Page 102
National Sovereignty and Peace*
I suppose that never in human history has there been so intense and widespread a discussion of the problem of peace as that which has reverberated round the world since the outbreak of the world war in August 1914. That is largely due, no doubt, to the fact that the majority of mankind were drawn, directly or indirectly, into the maelstrom of the war, that modern war, as depicted in the press, the film and the radio, is more sensational and more dramatically violent than in earlier ages, and that it attacks non-combatants and especially women and children more fiercely than it did before the days of the bombing aeroplane. I doubt whether, in point of fact, modern war is really more horrible than ancient war – war in the days when there was no Red Cross, when armies lived on the country often destroying everything as they passed, when famine and pestilence was added to direst slaughter by sword or rifle. Its holocausts of killed and wounded at particular moments are certainly larger. But I question whether, in sum, there is more suffering than, for instance, in the Thirty years war when the population of Germany was reduced from 30,000,000 to 5,000,000 or even in phases of the American Civil War.
The real difference between the discussions about war and peace, which are going on today and those of preceding centuries, is a difference in motive. Except for relatively brief moments in the history of man, people have thought of war, as they have thought of earthquake, or pestilence, or storm and flood as a calamity, which by luck or geographical position or good management they might be able to escape or from which they might come out as victors rather than vanquished, but as something which was part of the inescapable lot of Nature and man. But since 1914 there has been a profound change in the outlook. Appalled first by the magnitude of the catastrophe and later by the obvious discrepancy between the price paid for victory and its reward, public opinion, at least over a great part of the earth’s surface, has demanded that war as an institution should be abolished from the earth. War is no longer regarded as inevitable or as the will of God. It is recognised to be the outcome of defects in human nature or management or organisation and as such to be essentially remediable. That is an immense advance.
In some degree this change may be due to religion. Christianity has always deplored war and the killing of man by man as essentially contrary to the spirit of its Founder. On the other hand some of the churches have too often been identified with those vehement national patriotisms which in modern times have been the most stubborn causes of bellicosity and war. I remember when I walked through the gloomy anti-God Museum in Leningrad a few years ago, seeing displayed as evidence of the Marxist thesis that religion was the opium of the people picture after picture from country after country of ecclesiastics of many different denominations blessing battleships and battleplanes and other instruments of war. This need not be taken too seriously. But there is no doubt that one of the reasons for the decline of the authority of much organised religion in recent years has been that so far, at any rate, the churches have not convinced the people that they have the solution for the insistent problem of war. I think, as I shall try to show that they could do more than they have lately done to find the answer to this charge.
A more important factor in the change of attitude towards war has, I think, been the growth of the scientific spirit. Mankind has become so accustomed to seeing the mastery of Nature by man, to reading about the astonishing discoveries of natural science and to seeing marvels like the aeroplane and the radio or in the lessening of disease by sanitation, that they have begun to feel that no problem is insoluble, no evil is unconquerable, if people really set their minds to solving the one or curing the other. The shock of the disaster of 1914 made men say «This is the next enemy which shall be overcome».
But if we are candid with ourselves we must admit that we have not made much progress towards our goal, so far. The League of Nations was the expression of mankind’s bitter and poignant hope that the last war was the war which would end war and that in future war could be prevented and international disputes would be settled by pacific means. But it is now obvious to everybody that these hopes have not been fulfilled. I shall give some explanation of this later on. For the present it suffices to point to the fact that we are in the midst of the greatest period of re-armament the world has ever known and that two or three wars or undeclared wars are in progress in different parts of the world. Is that because of the errors or pusillanimity of statesmen, because they have failed to use the machinery to their hands, or is it due to the fact that our proposals for dealing with the problem of war were fundamentally inadequate? That is the question I want to discuss tonight, for we shall make no progress until we face the facts and find the answer to it.
As one who is condemned to play a part in politics I am particularly glad to discuss this subject today before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution. The trouble with politics is that the leading actors almost always are compelled to deal with urgent and usually unforeseen and unforeseeable issues which come crowding upon them for solution hour after hour. Politics in practice is largely a matter of skilful improvisation. A ship is sunk or threatened in the Mediterranean, or a foreign minister says something in a speech, which indicates an unsuspected design on the foreign policy of another nation or inflames public opinion to uncontrollable indignation. Or a labour dispute flares up somewhere or there is a break in the Stock Exchange or a rise or fall in prices or the bank rate. Such things are happening all the time and no one can predict when and where the next crisis will come from. It is sometimes said, and I think with justice, that Governments are made or unmade not by the general policies they proclaim or on which they are elected, but according to whether they inspire confidence by the manner in which they deal with the thousand and one practical problems which rush up for immediate solution day by day. No Government will last under a parliamentary system, however popular its general policy may be, if it is obviously a failure in ordinary administration and there is an alternative party which can be put in power in its place.
But this is only half the truth. What controls policy in the long run are two things – in the first place the facts: and not illusions or ideals or what psychologists call wishful thinking about the facts. In the second place the settled moral judgment of the electorate and its settled opinion as to the direction in which it wants society to move. And this settled judgment and opinion, at any rate in a democracy, is largely the creation of those who are capable of study and thought and are possessed of strong and independent moral conviction. I have long believed that the only basis upon which demmocracy can be made to work successfully is the same as that which underlies the jury system. The jury is only asked one simple question. It is not asked to sift the evidence or to make up its mind about the facts or the law. These things are done for it first by expert counsel who elicit the facts in accordance with the law of evidence enforced by the Judge, and later by the Judge who sums up the evidence in the whole case and declares the law relating to it. Then and then only is the Jury asked to decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty. Experience shows that justice is best attained by combining this marshalling of law and evidence by experts with the common sense judgement of 12 ordinary men and women who are asked for one thing only, their verdict: guilty or not guilty. So, in politics what a democratic electorate is really qualified to do is to decide which of two parties and leaders and programmes it wants to administer the powers of the state, under the constitution for the next four or five years. The parties correspond to the expert counsel and judges: the electorate to the jury, and their verdict is given after hearing all sides at a general election. When you try to ask an electorate, necessarily consisting of people who are busy about their daily lives and who have no direct knowledge of the issues, to decide on complicated questions of policy you always get into trouble. I think the famous Peace Ballot of 1935 was a conspicuous instance in point. It was an attempt to get the electorates to vote on policy by a kind of plebiscite. But a plebiscite is unknown to our constitution, which asks the electorate to decide between parties and men and programmes. In my opinion the Peace Ballot led to disasters from which we and other nations have not yet recovered and if we try to build on plebiscite, democracy itself will break down.
The truth is that initiative and leadership must come from political parties and leaders but that the limits within which parties and leaders can move is the settled judgment of the electorate on certain fundamentals. This settled opinion is partly the creation of the parties themselves and of the press affiliated to them, but it is also created, and in some ways most decisively created by thinkers and poets, and by students and men of religion, who are not directly engaged in politics at all. Some of them study the facts more deeply than active politicians can do and so discern forces which make little show on the surface but represent the deeps beneath. Others are concerned with truth and error, good and evil, and rouse the moral sense of the community. The best of them often belong to no class or sect or profession, but are what professional politicians often dislike most: –independents. And in this task of laying the foundations upon which public opinion rests there is no body of people more important than philosophers, or students of thought, government and religion. For they attempt to state, analyze and interpret the facts, to find out the deeper currents of the ocean of events and to mark upon charts the rocks and shoals to avoid and the clear channels along which the ship of state may move safely forward.
That is why I am particularly glad to be able to discuss tonight the problem of peace with this audience of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution. For I believe that there has been something fundamentally wrong with our thinking about peace since 1918 and that we shall never make progress until we see what it is.
As I said at the beginning the whole human race has been longing for peace. The peace societies have been passing endless resolutions in favour of peace. There is not a political gathering or an issue of a newspaper which does not demand peace. The greatest effort in history was concentrated on creating a practical peace system – the League of Nations. Yet today we seem to be moving away from peace rather than towards it.
Why is that so? I do not believe we shall find the answer to the question merely by exposing the mistakes and failures of the last twenty years. It is sometimes said that the League of Nations has been wrecked by the Treaty of Versailles. In a measure that is true. At any rate the hopes of peace were deeply undermined not only by the Treaty of Versailles but even more by what followed it. Here there is a summary of those fatal events. First came the rejection of the League by the United States, then the failure to set up a reasonably impartial Reparations Commission, then the repudiation of the Anglo-French Treaty of Guarantee to France, a nation of 40,000,000, against unprovoked aggression by Germany, a nation of 65,000,000, then the inevitable consequence, the building up of the French Alliance system against Germany within the League and finally the invasion of the Ruhr, which really created the National Socialist movement by rousing the German middle class, in order to compel Germany to remain weak and disarmed, with a demilitarised frontier. All these things have been the parents of our present discords, and the Locarno treaties failed to solve them because they sought to perpetuate the military discrimination against Germany. But this historical diagnosis does not go to the root of the problem. It does not explain why these mistakes were made: nor why the League was unable to remedy them. Nor does it explain why the Washington Settlement of the Far East in 1922, by far the wisest and justest settlement made after the war, has collapsed as fatally as the Paris settlement of Europe collapsed first.
It is the same with a kind of argument which has been very popular of late – that if only the British Government or some other Government had acted with resolution and decision, in Manchuria, in Abyssinia, over Spain, in Palestine, in China today and so on, all would have been well. No doubt if we had acted differently we should not be where we are now. We might be better off or we might be worse off. But, as I shall try to prove, the basic reason for these failures lies deeper than the Treaty of Versailles or the policies of ministries, either at home or abroad. In my experience both as a student of history and as one who for many years was near the heart of public events, the decisions of public men are far more often than not the only ones which are practical in the actual circumstances. No minister, not even the Prime Minister, has a free hand to do as he chooses. He can only act within limits imposed by facts on the one side and by what he can get his colleagues or public opinion or his allies to agree to on the other. While the personal factor is immensely important in the short run and it makes an immense deal of difference whether a good and strong or a bad and weak man is in a particular office, the course of history in the long run is governed remorselessly by facts and deep seated principles and feelings which the individual minister, however powerful, is unable to alter.
Neither of. these explanations of the failure of the great post-war peace movement and the present drift towards war, to my mind touch the root of the problem. If we are to make progress in the greatest task of our age, the conquest of war, I am convinced that we must think far more fundamentally and less emotionally about the problem of peace and about what peace, in the political sense of the word, really means and what are the conditions which are necessary for its establishment among men. For if we can discover the basic or scientific truth, that truth will begin to spread until it permeates public opinion and becomes part of that settled public conviction with which practical politicians have to deal.
What is peace? Peace is what follows the establishment of the institution known as the State. The State is the instrument which creates the reign of law – the system whereby resort to violence is forbidden and prevented because there is a legislative authority to enact and amend the law, a judiciary to adapt the law to particular circumstances and to decide disputes, and an executive to enforce, through police and army, the law and to administer the public departments of the State. Peace, in the political sense of the word, only exists within the confines of the State, and it is the primary and essential function of the State to establish and maintain peace. It is essential to realise this if we are to think clearly about the problem of international peace. There has never been peace on any corner of the earth’s surface or at any period in human history except through the agency of the State. Whether one looks at a tribal chieftainship, a monarchical or feudal despotism, a vast federal democratic republic like the United States, or an even vaster creation like the Soviet Socialist Republic or the Empire of India, its internal peace depends upon the existence of the State. Progress does not affect the fundamental nature of the State. It simply alters the process by which those who wield the powers of the State, the power to legislate, to give judicial decisions and to enforce the law, are appointed. In primitive conditions that power passes by heredity or is seized by conquest. Under advanced conditions it is the result of an electoral process whereby authority is given to a party or group of parties to act as the Government by a majority of the electorate, voting freely at a general election, and itself compelled to act within the law and not arbitrarily and with a decent respect for the rights and interests of minorities.
That is what peace is. And it is only when we begin to think about international peace from this standpoint that we can see, and see clearly, why we have failed, despite all our efforts, to create peace since 1918 and what are the basic conditions on which alone we can end war on earth. The essential reason why we have not had peace is that in the international realm the State does not exist. Every nation has insisted on its own full sovereignty, and so has claimed to be a law unto itself and a judge in its own cause. Moreover, despite the League of Nations, the position has been more difficult since the great war because it ended in an increase in the number of sovereign States. For instance, the number of sovereignties in Europe was increased from seventeen to twenty-six and the British Empire was transformed from an Empire substantially governed from one centre into an association of almost independent sovereignties.
The fundamental reason why the League of Nations has failed has been because it was a League of sovereign States and had itself none of the attributes of the State. While the League is an admirable piece of mechanism for States which want to cooperate or to find peaceful methods of settling disputes, it is, in its essential nature, only camouflage for the fact that its members, by insisting on their own sovereignty, are practically still living in conditions of anarchy, and as all history shows, war is endemic in anarchy.
Let us consider for a moment what the sovereignty of nations and its consequent anarchy means in practice. It means in the first place that every nation tends to look at every problem from the point of view of its own interests and especially its own security. It may and sometimes does try to look at things from a wider standpoint, but it is almost impossible for it to do so, for the reason that in a democracy at any rate, its inhabitants have no real knowledge of the rest of the world and because its government is responsible to and controlled by its own inhabitants alone. There is no government or ruler who can think or speak for humanity as a whole. Moreover, language, geography and culture impose upon every nation a national outlook, quite different from what the outlook of a government would be which represented all nations, races, languages and colours.
In the second place sovereignty means that in case of disputes between nations, there is no remedy, where voluntary agreement cannot be reached, but force – the giving way of the weaker party or a trial of strength in power diplomacy or war. So long as every nation is content with the status quo there may be no serious difficulties, and conference round the table or arbitration on agreed terms of reference may suffice to solve disputes. But directly there is serious discontent with the status quo, and that is the usual condition of the world, as it is today, and discussion and diplomacy prove inadequate to find agreed solutions, the most discontented nations, especially if they are potentially powerful, begin to arm so as to compel attention to their claims or in the last resort to secure what they feel they are entitled to by power diplomacy or war. We can see this process going on all over Europe, North Africa and the Far East today. Yet immediately armament begins anywhere, neighbouring nations follow suit – so as to try to make themselves secure in the event of war. So we get to that competition in armaments which is a familiar feature of anarchy. And once competition sets in agreement becomes more and more difficult because the strategic factor rapidly becomes predominant on moral factors such as justice. For instance fear lest restored colonies might be used as air or naval bases is becoming a major consideration in the German colonial question today. Again it was fear of increasing the strategic power of Germany which induced the Peace Conference arbitrarily to forbid the union of the Austrian Germans with the German Germans even if they wanted to do so. The final consequence of the anarchy which follows insistence on national sovereignty is that nations begin to ally themselves together – some in order to alter, others in order to defend the status quo, until the world becomes organised in two or more rigid military alliances. Is that not exactly what you see going on today with the anti-Comintern Pact on one side and the Russo-French Treaty of mutual Assistance on the other – just as you saw it developing before 1914? And when the military alliances become sufficiently rigid the military timetable based on speed of mobilisation becomes decisive – and enables a fool, a rumour or ·an accident to let off a world war.
But there is a further result of national sovereignty – in some ways the most far-reaching of all. Every sovereign state begins to set itself up, under pressure from both employers and employed, as a more or less closed economic area by means of tariffs, and it tends to include within its own economic system, any colonial areas it may control. As the competition in armaments sets in there is added to the ordinary arguments for economic nationalism, the argument that the maximum self-sufficiency is necessary to national security in the event of war and so to ordinary tariffs are added higher tariffs, embargoes, quotas and so on, on the principle of autarky. But the inevitable restriction of foreign trade which economic nationalism thus produces, results in the devastation of industrial areas which used to be engaged in the export trade or shipping, while raw material and food producing countries lose their old markets so that unemployment becomes a universal phenomenon all over the world. As this unemployment becomes severe, the social order becomes unstable, there is a universal demand for more and more governmental interference to provide palliatives or remedies or to maintain order, until democracy is overthrown by some form of totalitarianism or the democracies are driven to a universal governmental paternalism not in response to socialist theory but because of the necessities created by economic nationalism.
Can anybody in this room tonight dispute that what I have just described represents exactly the main process which we have witnessed in the last ten years? While statesmen and nations have made mistakes in plenty, is it not clear that the inexorable underlying driving force which has defeated the best intentions of statesmen and men of good will, has been the force of anarchy resulting from universal national sovereignty? That is the force which has led to national interests taking precedence over human interests, to the failure to revise the Treaties in the interest of justice in time, to rearmament, to impotence in face of aggression, and to the economic nationalism and alliances of the present day. And will not every student of history or of political science agree that these very phenomena are inherent in anarchy, and only disappear where there is a great State like the old Roman Empire or the old British Empire or the Government of India or the Federal Union in the United States or the Federal Government of Canada and Australia, which can maintain peace by being able to legislate for and police vast areas and the populations they contain. The nations today are really living in the same conditions as individuals used to live in the wild and woolly West in the early frontier days of the United States. Then every man carried a gun and his safety and that of his property and family, depended on the reputation he had for drawing it quickly and shooting straight. Civilisation and economic development were impossible under such conditions and they did not, in fact, begin to appear, until the Sheriff – the agent of the State – appeared and established the reign of law.
Above all, it has been this fatal force which has undermined the original hopes about the League of Nations. Because every member has retained its own sovereignty, national interests have always come first, to prevent it joining the League, or from giving power to the League to do justice and revise treaties, or to limit economic nationalism or resist aggression. At every crisis you will find that national sovereignty has been what the Americans call «the nigger in the wood-pile». The essence of this position can be seen in the fact that in the last resort the loyalty of the individual is owed to his own state and not to the League, so that if necessary he has to fight against the League.
If you really want to study the basic reason why a system of co-operation between sovereign States cannot possibly overcome the forces of anarchy or maintain peace and justice read the pages of The Federalist – the famous American periodical in which Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay set forth the bitter lessons of the period from 1781 to 1787 when the revolted American colonies were trying to manage their affairs as a kind of League of States, and argued successfully that nothing short of the pooling of some part of state sovereignty in an American federal constitution could give peace to America or prevent its being engulfed, like Europe, in chronic war.
The only foundation on which lasting peace can really be based is the principle of the State in the federal form. That is the lesson both of history and of political science. There was no peace in Britain, no ending of alliances between Scotland and France against England until you had the union first of the thrones and later of the Parliaments. Canada, Australia and South Africa could not solve their own internal problems until they formed a federation or union. It was the same with Germany and India, and with the American Confederation. It is obviously true of Europe today. It cannot get peace so long as it consists of 26 sovereign States. And it is really true of the world as a whole today, because inventions have so shrunken it in terms of time and space as to make it smaller than the British Isles alone were a hundred and fifty years ago.
It is not my purpose to suggest that this solution is within reach today, or can be applied tomorrow, or that we can begin with the world as a whole, or that the difficulties in the way, difficulties of race and colour, and culture and civilisation are not immense. What I am concerned with is to convince you ladies and gentlemen of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution that the problem which concerns all, more than any other today – the problem of ending war and of establishing international peace – is only soluble in terms of federal constitutional government. We may have to get along for a time as best we can with makeshifts, with new variants of the League of Nations, or by the major military powers giving parts of the world an uneasy respite from war for a time because no one dares to challenge their supremacy, or by systems like that by which a dominant British Navy prevented world war for a century from 1815 to 1914 though it was unable and did not try to prevent local wars – a system which can only be reproduced today by the United States and Great Britain acting together at sea. But even if these makeshifts can be constructed and can be made to work for a time they are only makeshifts. The vital thing which the thinkers among us must grasp is the fundamental truth that international peace and the possibility of a world governed by morality can be established by the principle of the State and in no other way. Then and then only will our thinking on this subject begin to be constructive and fruitful and we shall no longer rush hysterically up one blind alley after another, to failure and frustration and disaster, because we have persuaded ourselves that there was some shorter and easier road to peace, when, in fact, there is not. On the principle of the federal State and in that alone can the temple of peace be permanently reared.
On this main point may I recommend to your attention the argument put forward in a remarkable book by Mr. Lionel Curtis – the third volume of «Civitas Dei». Mr. Curtis’s theme is that the function of religion is not only to ensure the individual redemption of the individual but that the redemption of the individual requires that he act as a good citizen and that it is therefore part of the function of religion to bring into being a type of human society in which it is possible for the individual to love God by loving all his neighbours as himself. He argues that humanity has advanced in proportion as it has been able to extend the loyalty which men owe to others, as made possible in the institution of the commonwealth, by including a larger and larger section of humanity in the commonwealth. Thus in primitive societies loyalty and love is owed only to other members of the tribe – all others are enemies. The ancient empires came into being by conquest and retained their unity and power so long as the attributes of divinity could be accorded to the King and his descendants. But when these disappeared, by atrophy or conquest, the empire collapsed. Then the Israelites and the Greeks made two discoveries: the first was of the importance of free religious experience and moral principle as the foundation of society, the second was of the principle of the responsible democratic commonwealth as exemplified in the Greek City State. These were fused for the first time in history in England under the Plantagenets when the idea of representation made possible the creation of a democratic commonwealth coextensive with a nation. And a few hundred years later the Americans, faced, as I have described, by catastrophe so long as they were unwilling to abandon any part of the sovereignty of the original thirteen States, discovered the principle of federation, whereby, while the individual States were left fully autonomous in their local affairs, the federal democratic Commonwealth was extended to include 48 States, an area as large as the whole of Europe, and 130,000,000 people.
I will now quote one or two passages from Mr. Curtis’s book which give the essence of his argument. «To regard peace», he says, «as the end and object of policy in international affairs is, I believe, as great a mistake as it is to regard the maintenance of order as the end and object of domestic policy. War between States and disorder within them are the visible symptoms of a malady deeper than the sufferings they inflict... The essential disease is a failure in the system to develop in men the sense of duty they owe to one another». «The institutions of a national commonwealth, however great and however highly developed, do not suffice to reveal to its citizens the interests of human society as a whole. Nor can they clearly reveal to the people of one nation how inseparably its interests are bound up with those of human society as a whole». «Human nature cannot begin to realise its full possibilities until we have achieved a commonwealth which knows no limit but that of human society and renders all men obedient to laws common to all in things which affect them all». «The virtue in human beings will grow insofar as the framework of society is designed to exercise and promote it. A State which disposes the minds of its members gathered in one locality to regard their duty to others as in any way limited to those who live in that area cannot develop their sense of duty in the highest degree. In a world divided into national States the growth of virtue in men, however developed in those States, must be arrested at a certain point». «Indeed I have given reasons for thinking that anarchy not only does not develop moral virtue in nations but destroys it. People think of the national commonwealth contained by one frontier or coast as the last word in human development. The idea of the national State imprisons their minds. They can no more conceive a genuine commonwealth of nations than a Greek in the time of Aristotle could conceive a national commonwealth which contained all the Cities of Greece » – and it was because he could not conceive such an idea, now familiar to all of us, that the Greek civilisation was destroyed. «The profound belief in the national commonwealth as the last word in political construction is a gulf in the minds of men which has to be bridged before we can move to a higher level of civilisation than we have now reached».
Mr. Curtis ends his book by an appeal to religious and philosophic thinkers to begin to break down this almost universal inhibition against thinking in more than national terms and to lift man’s thought to the imperative need of thinking in terms of our all being fellow citizens of all other men and individual members of a world commonwealth, before our present anarchy destroys our civilisation, as it has destroyed civilisation after civilisation throughout history. I would add my plea to his. Is not the essential question we have to face one asked by Mr. Curtis «Can the progress of civilisation continue beyond the level it has now reached, or indeed maintain that level, unless and until the ultimate allegiance of all human beings is rendered to one sovereignty»? My answer is clear. Unless we can rise to that new level civilisation will certainly find itself in danger of the catastrophe of another world war.
You will probably expect me to say something about the more practical aspects of the problem, for you will naturally say «even if you are right in your statement of principle how can we proceed in practice?» I clearly cannot argue the question in detail tonight. But I will briefly enumerate one or two basic ideas as food for thought.
In the first place we shall not end war or re-establish the reign of morality in the international sphere, or even gain the power to control either our own national or world affairs, until there comes into being an authority which can survey world problems not as a conflict between national States but from the standpoint of the well-being of humanity as a whole.
In the second place that authority must be derived not from the national states, as is the case with the League of Nations, but from all the individuals comprised within its jurisdiction, must, in some way, be responsible to them, and must be able to enforce its laws on the individual, in the world federal sphere of power and not as against the nation State. For as James Madison said in the Philadelphia Convention which drew up the American Constitution, «The only way in which a State can be coerced is by war, and order and liberty cannot rest upon the power of a federal government to make war upon a State». This is very like Edward Grey’s statement about the League of Nations: «I do not like the idea of resorting to war to prevent war ». Liberty but not peace can be preserved by war.
In the third place the federal authority must alone be empowered to organise professional armies, navies or air forces, though the States might be free to raise militias for purposes of internal order, and it must have taxing powers of its own sufficient to enable it to pay for its own services so that it has not to rely on subventions voted by the constituent States.
You may ask, how are you ever going to get the nations of the earth, divided by race, language, colour, levels of civilisation and economic development and by vehement nationalism itself, to combine or to trust their fate to majorities of other races? My first answer is this. If you travel about the world much, as I have done, the most obvious fact is the speed in which the daily life of people is coming to be almost exactly alike in all the industrial areas of the world. We all tend to eat the same food, wear the same kind of clothes, do the same kind of work, read the same news and the same books, listen to the same music and talk about the same things. We are not nearly so different as we think, but under anarchy every difference is exaggerated, while under unity, while individuality would remain, artificial differences would tend to disappear. Take too, the apparently insurmountable problem of language. It is really one of the easiest to solve. Most educated people learn two languages. Why should they not all learn the same second language?
My second answer is that the integration of the world commonwealth will not begin, as the League of Nations began, with an attempt to bring the whole world in at a single time. It will begin with a group of nations who have thought their way through to the conclusion that they cannot solve their own domestic problem or obtain stable prosperity or peace unless they pool their sovereignty, abolish gradually trade restrictions between themselves and form a common government for their supernational affairs. Once a group of like-minded, civilised nations do this, for instance the English-speaking nations, or the democracies, or some other self-governing group, and have found the system of representation which will enable the federal authority to be responsible to and deal directly with all the citizens of the new federation, the access of strength, the increase of freedom, the rise in their prosperity will be such that other nations will want to join – and they should be admitted provided they accept the basic principles on which the federation rests.
In point of fact I am not so pessimistic as most of you probably feel about the possibility of achievement of this kind. It is astonishing what results the truth can achieve once it is proclaimed and once the disasters which follow its rejection begin to befall us. Just look at the inconceivable revolutions which have overtaken the world in the last twenty years. The Russian Tsardom has become an entirely new kind of State, the ·USSR. The ancient Sultanate of Turkey has vanished. Fascism as well as Communism has gripped millions of youth into blind obedience. The British Empire has become a so-called Commonwealth which will soon become over 20 sovereign States with no stronger bond than an hereditary, non-political Crown. Either wisdom or disaster may make us move just as rapidly in the opposite direction from that in which we have been moving for the last twenty years – the direction of more and more self-determination and more and more anarchy. But the necessary condition is that enough people should begin to proclaim the truth that the pooling of some part of national sovereignty in a federal union is the only remedy for war.
But there are probably some members of my audience tonight who are already saying that I have ignored the most important factor of all, the economic factor, as the cause of war, the socialist argument that it is capitalism, with its competition and profit making and inner contradictions, which is the root of all our troubles. I have not forgotten Karl Marx’s famous diagnosis as set forth in the Communist Manifesto of 1848 and the vast flood of literature it has since produced. But I am not going to discuss this thesis, except very briefly tonight, because I am convinced that it is not true. Socialism as I see it, is a half truth. The humanitarian and idealist sentiment which lies behind it is entirely sound, and it is because the doctrinaires of «Laissez faire» overruled those considerations that Socialism has become so popular in the last half century. But the Marxist diagnosis that almost all the evils of society are due to the private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, is, I believe, a gigantic delusion, which has distracted us from the far more fundamental evil of national sovereignty and is leading many people to the disastrous belief that universal nationalisation is a preferable foundation for our economic life than free initiative and enterprise regulated by law. The really central fact of our modern industrial civilisation is not the private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, but the division and specialisation of labour as a result of the discoveries of natural science and the use of machinery. That is what has made possible the gigantic increase in the standard and variety of living in the last century. But the only method whereby supply and demand can be kept in relation with one another in a society based on the division of labour, by which capital and labour can be moved to the places in which they are needed, and whereby the consumer can decide what is to be produced, is the free market. That is the fundamental mechanical balance wheel of modern industrial civilisation and Marxism proceeds on the assumption that you can suppress it altogether and substitute for it the dictatorship of a central planning committee. But such a system requires superhuman ability in the planners and even so can only survive by the most drastic and dictatorial control over individual life for the inescapable consequence of central planning is that all private initiative must be suppressed because otherwise it will destroy the plan. In practice it only substitutes exploitation by an irremoveable bureaucratic dictatorship for the much less dictatorial exploitation of competitive capitalism especially if capitalism is regulated by democratic law. I am convinced that the system is going to break down in practice as being beyond both human endurance and human capacity and recent events in Russia seem to point to the beginning of that breakdown.
I am not going to discuss this vital and fascinating subject further tonight, except to refer you to another very remarkable book which has already been published in the United States and which is shortly to appear in this country also, Mr. WaIter Lippmann’s book called «The Good Society». It will well repay your attention. It is one of the most clarifying books on the whole capitalism and socialism problem which has appeared in this generation.
The fundamental cause of the economic troubles of the modern world is not capitalism but the national sovereignty which has made it almost impossible for capitalism even in its most controlled and benevolent form, to work, and which is also the root cause of war. It was national sovereignty which was the ultimate cause of the world war of 1914, which dislocated the old economic order so badly that it almost broke down altogether; it is national sovereignty which through tariffs, embargoes, quotas, exchange restrictions, reparations and war debts, has been the principal impediment to postwar recovery through the unemployment, revolution, dictatorship it has caused.
There is the real enemy – not capitalism, which in itself unifies the world and overrides racial and language obstacles. If it were not for state sovereignty, trade would be free, migration would be far easier, slump and booms would be far less, the rise in the standard of living would be far more rapid. Once the fatal forces generated by anarchy and national sovereignty have been exorcised by some form of international federation, it will be in the combination of the fundamental institutions of capitalism, which generates a gigantic flow of energy, initiative and invention, with democracy, which redistributes wealth through taxation and enacts in the interest of all the people the laws within which capitalism should function and which protects the individual from the effects of competition in the market by insurance, old age pensions, and the whole stately edifice of social reform, that the hope of peace, freedom and economic prosperity for all will be found to lie.
I would end, therefore, on a note, not of pessimism but of hope. We are living in a difficult, a dangerous, indeed a painful age. On the one hand we face great disasters; on the other we are also within reach of tremendous accomplishments if we have eyes to see and courage to act. Mankind, as a result of the turmoil of the last twenty-five years, has within its grasp an advance greater than that of the Renaissance and the Reformation, for if it can overcome international anarchy through the federal principle it will be able to add to the liberty taught in that era, the unity and law and peace without which liberty cannot be made secure. And you, the thinkers of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution can make your contribution to this cause if you will insist on shedding the illusions of the last twenty years and thinking organically once more about what the true foundation of international peace alone can be. I feel, indeed, today very much like Sir Owen Seaman when he wrote some memorable verses at the outbreak of the world war.
* This essay is the text of a lecture Lord Lothian (Philip H. Kerr, Marques of Lothian) gave in the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution in March 1938. That it is an unpublished work becomes apparent when we read the correspondence between Lothian and the Secretary of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution. The latter explained that the Institution was not in a position to publish the essay for lack of funds (cf. Edinburgh Records Office, Lothian Papers GD40/17/353/165).
Lothian’s intense political activity that year aimed at bringing about a «Federal Union», the first federalist movement organised on a popular basis, and his imminent departure for Washington as the British Ambassador, prevented him from becoming personally involved in the essay’s publication and it remained among his personal papers.
This essay follows Pacifism is not enough in 1935 but precedes The Ending of Armageddon in 1939. The reason why Lothian decided to leave it unpublished despite having been asked in May 1939 by the «Federal Union» to draw up the movement’s first pamphlet (which was to be The Ending of Armageddon) is not explicitly stated. Perhaps Lothian considered National Sovereignty and Peace a theoretical essay with a wide-ranging philosophical basis unsuitable for that particularly dramatic historical period when it was vital to pass from thought to action.
The Ending of Armageddon contains a heart-felt plea through which Lothian put across the thesis held by Clarence Streit, the American federalist, for the immediate creation of a federation between Great Britain, France, the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Finland and Ireland, the fifteen democracies then existing in the world.
1 Quotation is omitted in the manuscript.