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40.2 How a Federal World Government May Come About

If we suppose a sufficient righteousness and intelligence in men to produce presently, from the tremendous lessons of history, an effective will for a world peace—that is to say, an effective will for a world law under a world government— for in no other fashion is a secure world peace conceivable—in what manner may we expect things to move towards this end? That movement will certainly not go on equally in every country, nor is it likely to take at first one uniform mode of expression. Here it will find a congenial and stimulating atmosphere, here it will find itself antagonistic to deep tradition or racial idiosyncrasy or well-organized base oppositions. In some cases those to whom the call of the new order has come will be living in a state almost ready to serve the ends of the greater political synthesis, in others they will have to fight like conspirators against the rule of evil laws. There is little in the political constitution of such countries as the United States or Switzerland that would impede their coalescence upon terms of frank give and take with other equally civilized confederations; political systems involving dependent areas and «subject peoples» such as the Turkish Empire was before the Great War, seem to require something in the nature of a breaking up before they can be adapted to a federal world system. Any state obsessed by traditions of an aggressive foreign policy will be difficult to assimilate into a world combination. But though here the government may be helpful, and here dark and hostile, the essential task of men of goodwill in all states and countries remains the same, it is an educational task, and its very essence is to bring to the minds of all men everywhere, as a necessary basis for world co-operation, a new telling and interpretation, a common interpretation, of history.

Does this League of Nations, which has been created by the covenant of 1919, contain within it the germ of any permanent federation of human effort? Will it grow into something for which, as Stallybrass says, men will be ready to «work wholeheartedly and, if necessary, fight»—as hitherto they have been willing to fight for their country and their own people? There are few intimations of any such enthusiasm for the League at the present time. The League does not even seem to know how to talk to common men. It has gone into official buildings, and comparatively few people in the world understand or care what it is doing there. It may be that the League is no more than a first project of union, exemplary only in its insufficiencies and dangers, destined to be superseded by something closer and completer as were the United States Articles of Confederation by the Federal Constitution. The League is at present a mere partial league of governments and states. It emphasizes nationality; it defers to sovereignty. What the world needs is no such league of nations as this nor even a mere league of peoples, but a world league of men. The world perishes unless sovereignty is merged and nationality subordinated. And for that the minds of men must first be prepared by experience and knowledge and thought. The supreme task before men at the present time is political education.

It may be that several partial leagues may precede any world league. The common misfortunes and urgent common needs of Europe and Asia may be more efficacious in bringing the European and Asiatic states to reason and a sort of unity, than the mere intellectual and sentimental ties of the United States and Great Britain and France. A United States of the Old World is a possibility to set against the possibility of an Atlantic union. Moreover, there is much to be said for an American experiment, a Pan-American league, in which the New World European colonies would play an in-and-out part as Luxembourg did for a time in the German confederation.

We will not attempt to weigh here what share may be taken in the recasting and consolidation of human affairs by the teachings and propaganda of labour internationalism, by the studies and needs of international finance, or by such boundary destroying powers as science and art and historical teaching. All these things may exert a combined pressure, in which it may never be possible to apportion the exact shares. Opposition may dissolve, antagonistic cults flatten out to a common culture, almost imperceptibly. The bold idealism of to-day may seem mere common sense to-morrow. And the problem of a forecast is complicated by the possibilities of interludes and backwaters. History has never gone simply forward. More particularly are the years after a great war apt too be years of apparent retrocession; men are too weary to see what has been done, what has been cleared away, and what has been made possible.

Among the things that seem to move commandingly towards an adequate world control at the present time are these:

(1) The increasing destructiveness and intolerableness of war waged with the new powers of science.

(2) The inevitable fusion of the world’s economic affairs into one system, leading necessarily, it would seem, to some common control of currency, and demanding safe and uninterrupted communications, and a free movement of goods and people by sea and land throughout the whole world. The satisfaction of these needs will require a world control of very considerable authority and powers of enforcement.

(3) The need, because of the increasing mobility of peoples, of effectual controls of health everywhere.

(4) The urgent need of some equalization of labour conditions, and of the minimum standard of life throughout the world. This seems to carry with it, as a necessary corollary, the establishment of some minimum standard of education for everyone.

(5) The impossibility of developing the enormous benefits of flying without a world control of the air-ways.

The necessity and logic of such diverse considerations as these push the mind irresistibly, in spite of the clashes of race and tradition and the huge difficulties created by differences in language, towards the belief that a conscious struggle to establish or prevent a political world community will be the next’stage in human history. The things that require that world community are permanent needs, one or other of these needs appeals to nearly everyone, and against their continuing persistence are only mortal difficulties, great no doubt, but mortal; prejudices, passions, animosities, delusions about race and country, egotisms, and such-like fluctuating and evanescent things, set up in men’s minds by education and suggestion; none of them things that make now for the welfare and survival of the individuals who are under their sway nor of the states and towns and associations in which they prevail.

« 40.1 The Possible Unification of Men’s Wills in Political Matters |Contents | 40.3 Some Fundamental Characteristics of a Modern World State »

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