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International Socialist Review, Spring 1959


Theodore Edwards

The United Nations


From International Socialist Review, Vol.20 No.2, Spring 1959, pp.42-46.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The glass skyscraper overlooking Manhattan’s East River is an impressive structure; but can the delegates meeting there achieve world peace? The possibilities appear remote

* * *

IS THE United Nations an effective instrument for securing world peace or is it a snare and a deception? In our nuclear age the answer to this query involves our own lives and the continued existence of the human species.

Despite their other disagreements, the various participating governments all assure us that the UN is the only instrumentality that – in the words of its Charter – can “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” In the State Department Bulletin of April 21, 1958, Frances O. Wilcox, Assistant Secretary of State, declared that “the United Nations, with all its imperfections, remains the best hope on earth for world peace.” American diplomats call on the Russians to stop using the veto and obstructing the UN in its momentous task.

But the Russians are for the UN, too. “People everywhere expect more energetic steps by the United Nations to remove the danger of war ... The UN must not be exploited to further imperialist aims, it must become a genuine guardian of world peace and security.” Thus spoke Y. Ilyin in the Moscow New Times of December 25, 1957.

Most of the lesser powers agree with one or the other of these main protagonists. Those smaller states not fully committed to the two major military and diplomatic blocs view the UN as an indispensable framework for efforts by the “neutralist” countries to keep the world from toppling into a radioactive abyss.

The multimillioned working masses, who all over the globe fervently desire peace, also look to the UN. In some countries, the man in the street is inclined to be a little skeptical about the UN; in others, he is more optimistic.

In the US support is especially vigorous. H. Schuyler Foster, Chief of the Public Studies Division of the State Department, reported in January 1958 that a survey showed 94 per cent of the student youth in the United States heartily in favor of the UN. The percentage among adults is not quite as high. Except at one pole for the vociferous America Firsters, who consider the UN a Communist plot; and, at the opposite pole, revolutionary socialists who regard the UN as imperialist dominated, almost everyone is for it.

Approval of the UN is most emphatic in certain religious, liberal and progressive circles. Ministers, professors, labor leaders; progressives of all sorts; socialists of various persuasions, with Norman Thomas in the lead; the Communist party; pacifists of all denominations, Quakers, Unitarians, even the Presbyterians (including their most illustrious lay members, Eisenhower and Dulles) – all profess faith in the UN.

Such popularity does not necessarily guarantee the efficacy of the UN as an agency of peace. Most supporters of the UN tend to substitute faith and hope for knowledge and reason. It is necessary to approach the answer to our opening question in an objective and scientific manner. We must ascertain the origin of the UN, its structure, antecedents, class character and the record it has made so far. Only then will we be able to determine whether it is a genuine instrument of peace deserving socialist support.

Conception and Birth

The founding of the UN at San Francisco in 1945 culminated the wartime collaboration of the US, Britain and the USSR. The October 1943 Foreign Ministers meeting in Moscow suggested an international security organization to police the world after the Allied victory. In October 1944 the Dumbarton Oaks conference again projected the setting up of an armed supergovern-ment, jointly controlled by the big powers, “for the prevention and removal of threats to peace and the suppression of acts of aggression.”

Both the Moscow and the Dumbarton Oaks declarations stated that the UN was to be “based on the principle of sovereign equality of all peace-loving nations.” At Yalta in February 1945 Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin toasted the killing of a few more million Germans and the slaughter of civilians in Allied air raids. As recorded in the censored official minutes, they also violated every one of the high-sounding professions of Allied war aims.

Stalin pointed out that the “three Great Powers” had borne the brunt of the war and should have the right to preserve the peace. It was ridiculous, he said, to believe that in the projected UN Albania should have a voice equal to that of the Big Three.

Roosevelt agreed that “unity” of the Big Three should be one of the first aims of the UN. He proposed to give each of the Big Five (US, Britain, France, China, the USSR) veto power in the UN Security Council. It was his view that this council alone should have the power to act, its decisions being binding on all the UN member states. The General Assembly, where the run-of-the-mill UN members voted, would have powers only of recommendation, if approved by a two-thirds majority. Roosevelt also proposed, as a concession, that the big powers should give the small nations the right to bring any and all problems before the Security Council.

Stalin replied that he was “interested in decisions, not in the discussions.” Churchill emphasized that he accepted Roosevelt’s proposals only because his government could veto any undesirable action by the UN. He then tossed off a Churchillian gem: “The eagle should permit the small birds to sing, and care not wherefore they sing.”

At the San Francisco conference, the smaller states made every effort to redress this domination of the great powers, correctly denouncing it as a violation of the principles of democracy and sovereign equality. Carlos Romulo of the Philippines later announced that “as a spokesman for a small nation, I want to make it very plain that my nation ... would be very happy indeed to trade the fiction of equality in a powerless Assembly for the reality of a vote equal to our actual position in the world in an Assembly endowed with real power.”

But the Big Five insisted that it was either the UN with the veto or no UN at all. Senator Connally dramatically tore up a copy of the Charter during one of his speeches. Molotov castigated the opponents of the veto as enemies of the proposed world security organization who had not ceased their “subversive activities” (!), and who were masquerading “under false colors” while pretending to protect the interests of small nations and the equality of nations.

Thus the Big Five bludgeoned the 45 small states into line. The San Francisco conference duly adopted the proposed Charter and the US Senate quickly ratified it in a record 89-to-2 vote.

The Atlantic Charter of August 1941, signed by Roosevelt and Churchill (and later adhered to by Stalin), pledged a peace assuring “freedom from fear and want.” It also promised “no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.” With a few embellishments, the Atlantic Charter merely repeated Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points of 1918. Like the latter, the lofty precepts it enunciated were observed only in the breach.

At Yalta, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin proceeded to carve up the world into their respective spheres of influence, without any regard for the wishes of the peoples concerned – “freely expressed” or otherwise. Stalin got Eastern Europe, the railroads and ports of Manchuria, the Kurile islands and southern Sakhalin. In return Stalin promised to restrain the Communist parties of Western Europe and to institute broad coalition regimes in Eastern Europe. Korea was to be jointly occupied by Soviet and American troops, with the thirty-eighth parallel as the dividing line. Germany was to be truncated and jointly occupied.

At its birth, the UN was not at all the “town meeting of the world,” as Senator Vandenberg assured everyone within hearing that it would be. Nor was it a “Parliament of Man” in that world republic envisioned by the World Federalists. The victors of World War II sought to establish a world-wide enforcement agency to insure the undisturbed enjoyment of the expected spoils of the bloody contest.

The original concept of a strongly armed supergovernment advocated most vigorously by Stalin, was not realized. The smaller nations objected. The cracks in the alliance widened into unbridgeable chasms only a few months after Yalta, as the war in Europe drew to its end.

The precise nature of the United Nations Organization as it finally emerged has presented something of a puzzle to most people. State Department officials cautiously refer to it as an “international personality.” Newspaper reporters, more correctly, call it an “unarmed peace organization.”

Speaking in Oslo last July, Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold attempted a more precise description. The UN, he said, “is a platform ... a technique of diplomatic negotiations ... a standing diplomatic conference ...” He added that the UN differs in two respects from more conventional forms of international relations: (a) the public debate of issues and (b) the introduction of voting into the conduct of foreign affairs. Such voting as occurs in the powerless Assembly, however, does little more than measure the current economic and political influence of the big powers on their subordinates.

UN No.1

In its structure, the UN bears a close resemblance to its predecessor, the League of Nations. The UN took over the material assets of the League and imitated its organizational structure. The main changes were in names. The Covenant of the League became a Charter, the Council a Security Council, the Assembly a General Assembly. The Permanent Court of International Justice was rebaptized as the International Court of Justice. The League “mandate system” of colonial administration hung out a new shingle, transforming itself into the UN “trusteeship system.” The International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation enlarged its functions somewhat and metamorphosed into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.

The methods for the settlement of international disputes are the same: economic, military, financial and diplomatic penalties or sanctions, an international police force to inspect armistice lines, the establishment of neutral buffer zones, observer teams, investigative commissions, the use of a special flag. These are the rusty techniques of the League under a new coat of paint.

Thus it is not surprising that at San Francisco many of the actual participants in League activities bobbed up again. At the UN founding conference, Samuel Grafton of the New York Post was dismayed by the “array of depressingly familiar faces, and the feeling ... that those who couldn’t do it once are going to try to do it again.”

A brief review of the historical role of the League of Nations, with which the UN shares so many features, can help cast light on the real nature of its successor. The League was an integral part of the Versailles peace treaty, imposed by the victors of World War I upon vanquished Germany. This indenture attempted to stabilize the world domination of the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Italy) by plundering and dismembering Germany and Austria, partitioning the rest of Europe into non-viable small states, and incorporating the former German colonies into the holdings of the winners. Lenin called Versailles “a usurer’s peace, a stran-gler’s, a butcher’s peace ... an unheard-of robber’s peace.” Attempting to enforce it, the League showed itself for what it was – an instrument of the British and French imperialists.

From 41 members in 1920, the League increased to 61, then dropped to 44 by 1939, the first year of World War II. Among the smaller states the League was able to settle a number of incidents: the 1920 Aaland case (Sweden vs. Finland); the 1925 Greco-Bulgarian dispute; the 1933 Leticia im imbroglio (Bolivia vs. Paraguay). When it came to larger states, it was another matter. This was shown in the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and the German Anschluss of Austria in 1938.

Germany’s regeneration after World War I came sooner than expected, thanks first to American support in the twenties and later to Britain’s tacit support of Hitler. British imperialism counted on using the Nazi dictator against the USSR, against the excessive pretensions of France, and more remotely against the United States. However, the traditional balance-of-power policy that had worked so well in the previous century backfired on the British imperialists as it did in 1914. The League collapsed like a house of cards before the dynamism of German capitalism; with it went British domination of the continent.

“If the US Had Joined ...”

One of the more persistent myths of American politics is that the League failed because the US did not join; and that if it had, the League could have kept the peace. In 1943-45 this legend was heavily stressed. Inasmuch as the League had failed only because the US had not come in, it was argued, the success of the UN was assured since the US would take a very active part in it.

However, this leaves out of account the fact that the nature of the peace-enforcing agency set up after a war cannot be divorced from the nature of the war whose results it seeks to maintain. The development of economic, social and political forces that tend to undermine and disintegrate the status quo also tend to undermine and disintegrate those bodies set up to register the previous balance of forces.

World War I was basically a European interimperialist conflict. The axis of the struggle was the antagonism between Britain and Germany, a rivalry that had international ramifications. US involvement had a preventive character, to keep Germany, a strong competitor, from becoming too powerful. Having attained this objective, the US withdrew from the European fray. It refused to join the League, primarily a European institution. Having in the course of the war become the main political and financial center of the world, Wall Street decided to consolidate its gains elsewhere and by different means.

World War II was no European squabble. It started there but it decided nothing less than world hegemony, placing the scepter of global overlord-ship in the grasping hands of the US monopolists. Their most dangerous imperialist rival, Germany, is still out of the running. Thirteen years after the cessation of hostilities, it is hopelessly split into two opposite fragments, with no prospect of unification or even withdrawal of foreign occupation troops. Versailles appears mild in retrospect. One wonders what Lenin would have said of such a “peace!”

Of the remaining contenders, Britain plays a poor second fiddle, having given up all thought of contesting US superiority. As Suez testified, any show of resistance quickly turns into abject capitulation. The other lesser imperialists are out of the contest, still supplicating the US for handouts.

Just as after World War I the League of Nations was the expression of British and French domination over Balkanized Europe, the UN to this day is what it has been from the beginning. It is a means for the exercise of world supremacy by US capital. More specifically it is an instrumentality of the US State Department, with Britain and France as junior partners.

In the State Department Bulletin of May 26, 1958, Wallace Irwin, Jr., Director of Public Services of the US mission at the UN, showed his awareness of this reality:

“How should the United States fit into the community of sovereign nations? ... What form should our leadership take? ... Whatever the humane [!] and statesmanlike [!] accomplishments of the colonial era – and they are many [!] – this option is simply not open to us ... The alternative which is most natural to us is that which our own American leadership since World War II has done so much to create and develop: the United Nations system. In this system great powers are looked to for leadership – none more than America ...”

Irwin’s meaning is clear: The US cannot rule the world in the manner of the old-fashioned colonial empires. It has to cloak what it does under a supposedly supra-national agency like the UN.

In the pursuit of their interests in and through the UN, the American monopolists are motivated not by the “four essential human freedoms,” or “the sovereign equality of nations,” or “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” US Big Business acts in accordance with its material goals and not in accordance with pious “eternal” moral precepts. The latter are for documents and declarations designed to trap the unwary and the gullible.

Stalin’s Participation Didn’t Change It

The presence of the USSR as one of the UN’s founders and members does not change its basic character as an imperialist agency. This is shown by the role played by the Kremlin. Stalin did everything in his power to perpetuate the wartime bloc with Wall Street and the City, faithfully fulfilling his side of the disreputable bargains made at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam.

The masses of Western Europe flocked into the Communist parties during the immediate postwar period. Instead of orienting towards a workers’ and farmers’ government, the Communist leaders, on orders from Stalin, joined hands with the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. They entered capitalist coalition governments, the better to support them; Thorez climbing in with De Gaulle, Togliatti with Bonomi, while Mao strove valiantly for a coalition with Chiang Kai-shek. As loyal cultists of Stalin and the deal he had made, the Communist party leaders thwarted the socialist aspirations of the masses, helped disarm the workers in France, Italy, Belgium and Greece and delayed the Chinese Revolution.

No sooner did the imperialists feel that capitalism was safe in Western Europe than they cancelled all previous agreements. The Communist party leaders were unceremoniously kicked out of the French and Italian cabinets. The Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, the system of intercontinental military pacts, the threat of military assault coupled with economic blockade, came into being.

Having acquired world supremacy, US Big Business decided it had been cheated of its full birthright. One-third of the globe was closed to capitalist exploitation. The incompatibility of the conflicting social systems, grudgingly endured during the wartime bloc, erupted. Driven by the relentless laws of capitalist economy, the US rulers set a basic course toward war with the Soviet Union and all non-capitalist countries. Under these circumstances, the UN functioned primarily as a medium for carrying on the preliminary or “cold” stage of the war.

How well the UN serves as an imperialist agency, despite the participation of the Kremlin; or, better, through the aid of the Kremlin, is indicated by the opinion of Washington’s spokesmen. Henry Cabot Lodge, US representative at the UN, in a speech at Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1958, told precisely how the UN served US interests during its first twelve years.

“Bringing about the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Iran ... Ending the Communist aggression by civil war against Greece. Above all, giving material and moral backing to the United States and the Republic of Korea in stopping Red aggression in Korea ... focusing world opinion on Red China in 1955 so effectively that it resulted in the release of our fifteen American fliers; and in exposing and frustrating Communist designs in places as far apart as Guatemala and Formosa ... Finally, 35 times in the past four years, we led the United Nations in the rejection of the attempt to seat Communist China. Thus, in its first decade the United Nations ... proved its effectiveness again and again and even secured some gain against the supposedly immovable empire of world Communism.”

Lodge further assured his audience that “in the twelve years of the United Nations existence ... the United States had never been defeated there on any vital question.”

On January 13, 1958, President Eisenhower, in submitting a report to Congress, pointed to the value of the UN in 1956-57 when it passed “massive votes to mobilize opinion against the Soviet Union’s blatant disregard of its obligations under the Charter ... [and against] Soviet imperialism [in Hungary].”

Such testimony on the value of the UN in promoting Washington’s policies is, as Lodge indicated, well substantiated by the record. The outstanding example is Korea. In the Saturday Evening Post of February 15, 1958, Demaree Bess observed that

“actually, US soldiers started fighting in Korea before the UN could possibly make a decisive move. But in order to insure maximum support in this conflict, moral and otherwise, the American government moved swiftly to make it appear that the UN had initiated ... [what] Washington already had begun.”

The UN covered the counter-revolutionary intervention in the Korean civil war with its banner. No wonder the US imperialists applaud and support the UN!

Does the UN Do Some Good?

Like the League, the UN has settled some disputes. In these cases, the basic interests of the dominant powers were not much involved, as in Trieste; or the interests of a lesser power were sacrificed as in the matter of Indonesian independence from the Netherlands; or the Soviet Union retreated, as in Iran in 1946 or in Greece in 1946-47.

Whenever they feel that pursuit of their policies is likely to be impeded by UN debate or action the imperialists simply bypass it. The Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Suez and the Anglo-American intervention in Lebanon and Jordan fall into this category. In the Suez crisis, the US monopolists used the UN to prevail upon their junior partners to call off an ill-starred adventure. In the Lebanon-Jordan muddle, they finally retreated in face of the forces of the Arab revolution, withdrawing their troops on the assurance of Nasser that he would allow Hussein to remain on the throne in Jordan.

The imperialists conceive the economic, social and cultural welfare work of the UN as little more than overhead for good public relations. Moreover, costs are kept down. The US, for instance, contributed only $15.5 million in 1958. It spends ten times as much on its own technical assistance programs and 200 times as much on military assistance – the “collective security arrangements” on which John Foster Dulles devotes such loving care. The entire UN budget in 1958 amounted to only $55 million, hardly the cost of two modern bombers, or one-fortieth the New York City budget. The US is committed to underwriting one-third of the costs; the Soviet Union, the second-largest donor, one-sixth.

To operate so economically, the UN was forced to cut down on “frills.” In 1951, 400,000 World War II refugees were left without provisions when the International Refugee Organization was discontinued. At the end of 1955, 120,000 such refugees were still living in official and unofficial camps. To this were later added 8,000 Hungarians who fled to Austria after the 1956 uprising. The total number of unsettled refugees in Europe is estimated at 1,000,000. Some 900,000 Arab refugees from Palestine are maintained by the UN at barest subsistence levels. The imperialists obviously care little for social welfare work. In fact, rather than outright grants the US specifies exactly how the money it contributes to UN economic and social projects is to be spent.

New Look Colonialism

Cutting through the cold war, powerful new forces have entered the historical arena, as Chiang Kai-shek and his imperialist backers found out. Perhaps the most dynamic factor of the postwar world situation has been the continuous advance of the colonial masses, embracing in their movement three-quarters of the earth’s population.

The Western powers had to retreat before the rising tide. With teeth-grinding, they embarked upon a new “enlightened” colonial policy, designed to salvage as much as possible. As usual, Britain proved most supple in applying the new technique. It loosened the degree of direct political rule of the colonial countries, allowing them self-government and even independence, but kept them within the Empire by offering the native bourgeoisie a partnership in the exploitation of their peoples.

US Big Business supports the new colonial policy for more than one reason. It tends to check the colonial upsurge, at least temporarily, and also allows US capital to penetrate the former colonies of the lesser imperialists much more easily. In most areas, formal “independence” has signified merely a change of economic masters. Whenever the monopolists feel that the colonial capitalists go too far in their demands, or that the unrest of the masses is getting out of hand or when the colony occupies a strategic position, then they resort to repressions or military intervention.

The US, for instance, intervened in Lebanon in reaction to the Iraqi uprising. But when the new Iraqi regime guaranteed imperialist oil interests; i.e., when it turned out that representatives of the colonial bourgeoisie were still in control, the State Department quickly extended diplomatic recognition in spite of Ambassador Lodge’s previous impassioned speeches at the UN about the Iraqi “assassins.”

Addressing the UN emergency session last August, President Eisenhower lectured the delegates on how the quest for more bargaining rights with Western interests will be tolerated only if it is “orderly,” “lawful,” and “peaceful” – otherwise, the US marines!

The Nation of August 30 queried Secretary Dulles and the President as to how they “propose to pursue this pleasant way of achieving change.” Neither the State Department nor the White House replied to the editors of the Nation. But it is clear enough that the UN figures prominently in US plans as a means of keeping the colonial revolution tied down to imperialist “law and order.” As Wallace Irwin Jr. observes: “We have to see that the explosive political forces of our time are directed into peaceful, constructive channels. In that effort, the United Nations is a real asset.”

A surprising number of colonies are now formally independent and have become members of the UN. [1] From its original membership of 51 in 1945, the UN has expanded to 81, an increase of over 50 per cent. The newly independent countries of Asia and Africa constitute the core of the so-called “neutralist” bloc at the UN. In a muted and distorted form, the representatives of the colonial capitalists voice the aspirations of their peoples for a better life. Or, more correctly, they use the threat of the rising revolution to gain concessions for themselves from the imperialist overlords.

The colonial capitalists and their spokesmen, such as Nasser, are adept at maneuvering between the Soviet Union and the US, and between the native masses and foreign capital. But as a possessing class, their interests are diametrically opposed to those of their own peasants and workers. They may walk the tight rope between revolution and counter-revolution for a while. In the end, having to choose, on the one hand, between their own insurgent populations pressing toward real independence and socialism and, on the other, their senior partners in exploitation, the colonial capitalists side with the imperialists.

At Home in a Thieves’ Kitchen

The behavior of the Soviet government at the UN merits close scrutiny. The Soviet attitude towards such organizations has not always been uniform. Lenin and Stalin approached this question in opposite ways.

The Bolshevik government under Lenin opposed the League of Nations, branding it as a thieves’ kitchen, a piece of fakery, a deception and a lie from beginning to end. Lenin considered it a pacifist illusion to place confidence in the League of Nations, collective security arrangements, courts of arbitration, disarmament talks to ensure peace. Reactionary Utopias and outright frauds aimed at distracting the working class of the world from the task of disarming their own exploiters – this was the kind of language he used.

After Lenin’s death and the defeat of the Left Opposition led by Leon Trotsky, all that changed. The bureaucracy that had grown up during the early twenties usurped state power under the leadership of Stalin’s faction. The extension of the socialist revolution was transformed into its opposite – defense of the status quo and quest for a non-aggression pact. Under Stalin and his present-day successors, advocacy of pacifist hallucinations, scorned under Lenin, became a main theme of Soviet foreign policy.

Stalin hailed the admission of the Soviet Union to the League of Nations in 1934, during the period of the Franco-Russian pact, as a triumph for socialism. For the next five years, until the USSR was expelled in 1939 when the Soviet-Finnish war broke out, the Kremlin attempted faithfully to fulfill its obligations under the Covenant of the League, an endeavor that exacted crucial and totally unnecessary concessions on its part during the Italo-Abyssinian war.

After the collapse of the Stalin-Hitler pact, the Kremlin trumpeted the Allied imperialists as true friends of the Soviet Union and as “peace-loving” and “democratic.” Communist party leaders joined the imperialist propagandists in assuring the workers of the West that the main enemy was not their own exploiters at home but the Nazi dictator in Germany. In accordance with this line, the American Communist party under Earl Browder advocated the no-strike pledge, the wage freeze and unconditional support of Wall Street’s war effort. The Kremlin clique vied with the Western imperialists in assuring the peoples of the world that the Grand Alliance would endure indefinitely and that with the crushing of the Axis powers lasting peace would be ensured. In September 1945 Stalin solemnly proclaimed that “now we can say that the conditions necessary for the peace of the world have already been won ... The long-awaited peace for the nations of the whole world has come.” Today Stalin’s heirs assure us that if only the UN were freed from reactionary influences, it could become the guardian of world tranquillity.

Soviet officials now count upon the semi-colonial bourgeoisie to influence the US to turn from its course toward World War III. This policy repeats the error of ascribing a “peace-loving” character to the allies of World War II. This time, the Kremlin chiefs idealize and misjudge these subordinate sections of the capitalist class. To attempt to transform the UN into an effective peace instrument against the US war drive by means of the bourgeoisie rising in the colonial world is to ask the impossible. These bourgeois representatives are not seeking to change the UN but to use it in their own interests; that is, to gain greater elbow room between the Soviet bloc and the imperialist powers and between the colonial masses and the foreign monopolists. This may give the imperialist representatives a few sleepless nights when it comes to rounding up “massive” propaganda votes at the powerless UN Assembly, but that is about all. There is little danger of the UN slipping from their grip and turning into a genuine instrument of peace.

The Soviet bureaucracy, in accordance with the mission it has assigned to the UN representatives of the colonial bourgeoisie, instructs the Communist parties to give them political support. Allegedly to advance the cause of peace, colonial workers are asked to subordinate their struggle for socialism to the Kremlin’s need to maneuver between the various national sections of the capitalist class.

Understandably the Soviet Union must utilize the antagonisms between the various capitalist countries in order to help safeguard its existence. There can be no question of that. Under Lenin, however, any blocs or treaties with bourgeois governments were subordinated to the paramount need of extending the socialist revolution. No Communist was asked to support a capitalist party or government or to soft-pedal the class struggle because of a potential or actual deal or bloc with any sections of the capitalists.

As a sovereign power, any workers state has to engage in diplomatic relations with capitalist powers. It has the right, therefore, to send its representatives to such organizations as the United Nations. But it does not have the right to participate in sowing illusions about it. Either through its diplomats, or other channels, it must speak the truth.

On occasion, when it accords with the needs of Kremlin foreign policy (as in the case of the Middle East), the Soviet representatives employ the UN as an effective forum. But these actions are isolated and opportunistic, not part of a consistent and principled policy. The UN could be utilized – not as a “genuine guardian of world peace” – but as a very useful loudspeaker for exposing imperialist aims and machinations.

The refusal of the UN to admit the People’s Republic of China shows that the concern of this “peace” organization for the “sovereign equality of nations” and “the right of peoples to choose the form of the government under which they live” extends only as far as Washington permits. Under present conditions China’s admission to the UN would help break down the US boycott of the Chinese mainland and further weaken Chiang’s position on Taiwan. It would also increase the diplomatic weight of the anti-capitalist bloc in world politics.

Recognition of the People’s Republic of China by all countries, including the US, which revolutionary socialists demand, includes acknowledgment of the sovereign right of the Chinese government to decide for itself whether or not it wants to join the United Nations in pursuing its diplomatic interests. But the UN cannot be made into a guarantor of peace, even if Chiang Kai-shek’s puppet regime were expelled and revolutionary China admitted.

Status Quo Can’t Be Kept

The agreement of 1945 to preserve the status quo that emerged from World War II could not be maintained. On one hand, the imperialists and the Soviet bureaucracy want to preserve the existing state of affairs in their own bailiwicks. On the other hand, the two clashing systems continually disrupt the status quo.

The US monopolists, all for upsetting things in the non-capitalist world, converted the UN into an instrument of the cold war and a means for braking the colonial uprisings. The Kremlin also, in its endeavor to weaken the war drive of imperialism, finds itself forced to upset the status quo, at least to some extent, by giving recognition and even support to colonial revolutionary movements.

The imperialists and the Soviet bureaucrats, it is true, have a common interest in maintaining the status quo against the revolutionary trend of the broad masses on an international scale. Neither favors the independent entrance of revolutionary masses into the arena, especially the home arena. But the revolution is stronger than the attempted channelizations and limitations put upon it by the parasitic Soviet bureaucracy and the outlived capitalist class, and it continually disrupts all efforts to maintain the status quo. The workers of the West continue to struggle against capitalism. The colonial peoples press their dynamic battle against imperialism. The Soviet bloc workers persist in fighting for their democratic and economic rights, sometimes with tremendous forces as we saw in East Germany, Poland and Hungary. The UN cannot resolve these conflicts and antagonisms. It can only hide the machinations of the rulers of the world behind a pacifist screen.

The uninterrupted build up of armaments by the major powers since the end of World War II, furnishes the most substantial proof of the inefficacy and illusory nature of UN peace-making capabilities. Without the slightest interruption or modification, over ten per cent of the gross national product of the imperialist nations continues to be spent in the race for operational super-weapons. During the last decade or so, Soviet and US delegates have held more than 350 meetings on disarmament at all levels. What has been achieved? Nothing. The imperialists sit down not to disarm themselves but to strip their opponents, making only those proposals known to be unacceptable to their opposite conferees. If by a hapless miscalculation, the protagonist accepts, the propositions are quickly amended, changed and made unacceptable again.

The question of peace is a class question. The UN, no matter how ardently supported, can never stay the hand of the warmakers. The decision, war or peace, is an attribute of state power. As long as monopoly capital rules, no peace petitions will prevent war.

Neither the interimperialist rivalries nor the altercations between the junior and senior partners of the new colonialism will abolish capitalist property relations or national states or the conflict between two antagonistic social systems – the contemporary sources of war. Man’s past attempts to circumvent internecine bloodshed have been singularly unsuccessful. From the peace-pipe ceremonies of primitive peoples to the Amphictyonic Leagues and Councils of Greece, from the Union of Fourteen States of the Middle Kingdom of Ancient China to the “grand dessein” of Henry IV of France, from the Holy Alliance to the League of Nations, the pages of history have recorded the failure of conventions to outlaw war. In the past, the arbitrament of the sword has always remained the last recourse in settling conflicting interests of tribal communities, of city states based on slavery, of feudal principalities, and of capitalist nations.

As long as class society continues to exist, war is inevitable. Humanity has sought peace since the dawn of history. But permanent peace can come only with the disappearance of all national and class oppression. That is why the real road to permanent peace is the revolutionary struggle for world socialism.


1. Great Britain released Burma, Ceylon, Egypt (now with Syria the United Arab Republic), Ghana, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Malaya, Pakistan, the Sudan. France released Cambodia, Laos, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and recently Guinea. The Netherlands released most of Indonesia. The United States released the Philippines.

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