World Government is not Socialism

Lately we have been hearing rather more often than usual that the way to solve the world’s problems—and particularly that of war—is to have World Government. Probably this is largely due to reaction to the news of the latest atomic weapons, and discussion of their earth-shattering potentialities. The proposal that one World Government should replace the many existing national sovereignties is, of course, by no means a recent one. At first sight it may seem to bear a certain similarity to the proposal to establish Socialism. The movement for World Government is concerned with achieving both universality and peace. So is the Socialist movement. But there the similarity just about ends, as an enquiry into the nature of the various ideas and policies that are advocated in the name of World Government will show.

History of World Government Movements
When and where the ideas of World Government first arose is largely a matter for speculation. Despite the comprehensive power achieved centuries ago by empires such as the Roman and Mongolian, and notwithstanding the work of nineteenth-century “peace societies,” organised efforts directed towards World Government are largely a product of the last two decades. Today there are dozens of organisations here and abroad championing federalism as a basis for world order, and disagreeing among themselves over details and methods. Among the pioneers was Federal Union Ltd., founded in London in 1937, and followed a year later by Federal Union, Inc. in Chicago. Both are concerned with the establishment of a “nuclear union” or federation of democracies which, they claim, must lead towards a world federal government.

In 1938 a World Citizenship Movement was launched in Britain and later in America, its supporters seeking to transcend national sovereignties by proclaiming themselves “world citizens.” One of the best-known personalities in this essentially individual movement was Garry Davis, who six years ago in France renounced his American citizenship in favour of “world citizenship.” In 1949 he launched his “World Citizens’ Pact,” which obtained almost half a million signatures. He returned to America a year later and applied for restoration of his American citizenship.

Meanwhile, other organisations had been springing up like mushrooms. In 1947 a number of American ones coalesced into United World Federalists, which included many secessionists from Federal Union. UWF reached a peak of 50,000 members in 1949. It advocates the transformation of the United Nations into a global federal government with powers to “keep the peace” In the event of Russian refusal to participate, it is prepared to support partial federation.

Finally in this brief survey we must mention the World Movement for World Federal Government, which is described as “the body co-ordinating the efforts of federalist and World Citizen organisations in many lands ”UWF and Federal Union are member organisations of WMWFG, as also is the Crusade for World Government (formed in 1947 under the leadership of a number of British M.P.’s). The fourth World Parliamentary Conference on World Government took place in London in September, and enabled delegates from different nations to reaffirm that all the nations should work together.

The list of names or organisations could be extended considerably. Frederick L. Schuman, in The Commonwealth of Man, goes into considerable detail about them, but claims to present no more than “a few leitmotifs in the symphony or cacophony of movements striving for world federation.” From this symphony or cacophony we must try to distinguish the main theme of World Government.

Their Policies
The WMWFG champions a federal world constitution, with a bill of rights, providing for a global legislature, executive and judiciary, and world law enforceable on individuals. To achieve this end it favours regional federations, United Nations reform, and national political action. Assuming that these measures could be achieved, they would do nothing to alter the property basis of present society. In the absence of majority agreement for revolutionary change, the world constitution, bill of rights, etc., would be modelled upon existing constitutions or upon a combination of them. The continuation of enforceable law, necessitating machinery of coercion, could only be justified on the grounds of the continuation of conflicting interests in a World State.

Recognition that the conflicting interests within property society are not all national ones shows that the advocates of World Government have a fundamentally wrong conception of the nature of the State. The capitalist State exists to prevent the class division in society from disrupting the social organisation, and to protect the interests of capitalist groups from actions instituted by rival capitalist groups abroad. The function of the State is to govern the institutions of property, to defend privileges against outer and inner threats, and to expand the areas within which capitalist exploitation may be profitably carried on.

The advocates of World Government, however, do not accept this, and work on the “social contract” theory of government They believe that men create government to serve the general welfare, and that it stands impartially above the conflict of class interests The actual conduct of governments belies this theory, and reinforces the Socialist contention that the capitalist system cannot be transformed by an expansion of the scope or functions of the State. The problems of mankind are not to be solved by the extension of government.

The Crusade for World Govemment
Some of the propaganda for World Government is not easily recognisable as reformism, and bears a superficial resemblance to Socialist propaganda. Consider the following passage from the Policy and Programme Statement of the Crusade for World Government 1953-4:

“A new order in world affairs is overdue. That new order must be a World Government obtaining its authority from the peoples of the world, representing all peoples, and having power to act in their common interests; a World Government which takes over and disbands national armed forces; which establishes and enforces the rule of world law, and which ensures social and economic justice for all peoples. World Government must come by the demand of the citizens of the world . . . ”

The language is deceptively revolutionary. For “a World Government” one could read “Socialism” and, if not too critical, one could imagine that the two movements shared the same object. It is worthwhile, therefore, to examine the passage quoted very carefully.

A World Government representing all peoples, and having power to act in their common interests gives the impression that each man, woman and child, would be so represented on a basis of social equality. If the “common interests” are also those of each and every person then the form of society cannot continue to be a property one with antagonistic classes—it must be Socialism. It will be noted that the Policy Statement does not list the abolition of property relationships among its aims, and this omission makes an important difference to the significance of the other proposals. These proposals—the world government, rule of world law, etc.—in effect boil down to the ideal of federating the separate nations into one super-nation, without changing the class nature of society.

It is not surprising that the Crusade for World Government should advocate no revolutionary change. In its own words, it “is not influenced or controlled by any political party or group but is supported by people in all walks of life, of different national origins, creeds and opinions.” It is possible that there are some members of CWG or other World Government organisations who claim that Socialism is their ultimate object, but that World Government is the immediate necessity. To these we would say: the quest for peace is admirable, and a world community of interests eminently desirable. But the movement for World Government like all other reformist movements, is trying to alter the results of the present system instead of working to abolish the system itself.

Seekers after peace and an equalitarian society are faced with the existence of property (private or state), the division of mankind into those with property rights and those without them, and all the ideas that enable this social system to continue. All these are inseparable aspects of capitalist society, and if any one is to be changed then all must be changed. A movement that does not require its members to be united in opposition to Capitalism is not capable of advancing Socialism. Those who desire a peaceful world run in the interests of all mankind will not achieve what they desire by supporting the policies of world government organisations. The comment of Gerard J. Mangone adds a final word of caution to any who doubt this: “World Government is but a technique of doing something on a large scale, not a guarantee of a better life for all.”


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