The United Nations and Power Politics

Towards the end of the last war when the United Nations Organisation first hit the headlines, many war-weary workers turned hopeful eyes towards this colossus which bestrode the world and was pledged to many high ideals, including the termination of all war. The older generation of workers recalled the League of Nations, its lofty aims and resolutions, puny performance and ignominious collapse. U.N.O., however, seemed a more promising infant than the.League; the size and sweep of its conception to include all nations, large and small in a combined bid for “Peace” seemed to thousands of workers a power for good. It developed with much publicity and hatched out an awe inspiring number of off-spring in the shape of various; Councils, Committees and Associations: Specialised Agencies were linked to it on a basis of mutual help: International bodies worked in conjunction with it. The Secretariat alone (known as the World Civil Service) employs 3,000 office workers.

The Charter (1945) setting forth the aims of the organisation is over-flowing with resolutions for international peace and security, friendly relations among nations, and international co-operation in solving international problems. (Article 1.) In addition to this somewhat long-winded Charter, a “Declaration of human rights ” was published in December, 1948, by tile U.N. Association at Paris.

Sad to relate, since the inception of this vast and complicated body with its avowed intention of establishing peace, wars of varying degrees and intensity have been and still are, raging. The cumbersome machinery of U.N.O., dodders and creaks along to the sound of gunfire in sundry parts of the globe. The troops in S. Korea fight under the title of U.N. Forces. This and the state of tension between the Western Bloc and U.S.S.R. makes mock of the high-sounding hypocritical phrases of the Charter.

The book now under review The United Nations and Power Politicsis by John Maclaurin, publishers George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London, 1951. It is a large book (450 pages) and deals comprehensively not only with the functioning of U.N.O., but gives detailed and graphic accounts of various problems which have come before the Organisation, some dealt with successfully according to its lights, but in most cases a dismal record of outright failure. We read of the deeply rooted animosities between the delegates of the great powers; their hypocrisy, and “holier than thou” attitude towards each other; the vetos. adjournments, juggling for advantage; the strange bedfellows who come together when policy dictates and when there is an axe to grind. Maclaurin says that many delegates show little respect for the purposes of U.N.O., by their verbal sparring, sarcasm and scoring off each other. Tribute is paid to much good work done by the supplementary organisations such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation, World Health Organisation and many others.

The delegates of the smaller nations show up in a more favourable light, probably because they have not such a large stake in world affairs. In 1949 at the 4th Session of the General Assembly a feeling of revolt developed among the delegates of the smaller powers over the worsening relations between U.S., U.K., and Russia. The Syrian delegate, Mr. El Khouri, denounced the cold war in biting terms and suggested that the small nations should get together and form a third camp, thus holding the balance in their hands.

“When questions arise that do not closely touch the political and economic objectives of a government it will turn them over to a delegate whose heart is in the question, contenting itself with very general instructions and leaving the delegate a large measure of freedom.” It is repeatedly demonstrated that the nations work together amicably on humanitarian and relief matters but come to grief over power politics. Regarding U.N.R.R.A. (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) Maclaurin says there was good co-operation between the governments and technicians, so long as political and “grab” motives were absent.

On 5th April, 1949, the General Assembly of U.N.O. opened its session in New York one day after the Atlantic pact was signed, a pact which splits the world into two armed camps and makes nonsense of the Organisation’s undertaking that all nations shall combine to ensure peace. Maclaurin quotes the American Daily News of 4-4-49. “With the adoption of the North Atlantic Pact, the last reason for the United Nations’ existence will vanish … The U.S. State Department is bellowing that the pact is strictly within the U.N. framework and will strengthen that organisation. The U.S.S.R. is staying in the U.N.O. instead of hauling out and urging a painless end to the U.N’s miserable existence.”

Many of the disputes brought before the Security Council, such as Israel and Indonesia, dragged on week, in and week out while fighting raged, in spite of “ resolutions ” calling on the combatants to cease fire.

In his concluding chapters, the author reviews the world position and the “drift to war.” Regarding the Western Bloc’s design to “contain Russian expansion,” he says, “With the stock-pile of atom bombs, the huge navy, the fleets of bombers, the air bases ringing the U.S.S.R., the 500 odd military bases of all sorts on the territories of other people, the military alliances, inter alia closing the Baltic and Mediterranean, it is certainly difficult to distinguish containing Russia from expanding American military dominance . . . American military, political and economic might has expanded over the earth to an extent hitherto unknown in history.”

He touches on the “balance of power” doctrine which, he says, is inevitably interpreted by its advocates as “balance in my favour… and has led in the past is leading in the present and will lead in the future to the armaments race and the scramble for political supremacy . . . and the outcome is war.”

The fostering of nationalism inflames nations against one another. Maclaurin says “There is a magic phrase that serves our governments as armour served the Knights of old, both for armaments and defence. The phrase is National interests.”

He writes of the “little man’s revolt” and says the world’s unease stems from two sources: “The revolt of the oppressed and the economic and political rivalries of the direct and indirect rulers of nation states.” Here we part company finally with the author for he suggests that the machinery of U.N.O. is suitable for world government, the only way out of the present impasse. This is anticlimax with a vengeance after reading bow ineffective and restricted the machinery is, and how it can be, and is, perverted in pursuit of cold war aims. Even if U.N.O. were a united world organisation and able to take over world government, the two conflicts would still remain, i.e., enmity between capitalist groups, and enmity between the “haves” and “have nots.” If the latter conflict were resolved by an enlightened working class movement establishing socialism, the former conflict would automatically cease to exist, and wars would be a thing of the past.

In conclusion we may say, the author has a lively style of writing which helps us over some of the dull patches, he weighs the motives of the great powers and slates them all impartially. (It is difficult to detect but there is an impression of a very slight bias in favour of U.S.S.R.) His remarks are uncompromising and trenchant and he obviously has no delusions regarding the objectives of the great powers in the game of power politics.

F. M. R.

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