The Politics of World Federation

Joseph Preston Baratta


1. That limited, federal world government remains a distant ideal must be granted. That the United Nations remains perilously weak, while nationalism has brought the world to ever more destructive wars, must also be admitted [p. 508].

2. Europeans, starting in the World War II Resistance and continuing through Jean Monnet’s leadership in establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, looked to federation as an end to endemic wars, and in time the European Union would be the practical realization of such dreams [1].

3. The defense of the rule of law is the principal legacy of the world federalists. “Law,” Mark Van Doren once said, “is what allows us to live in peace with our neighbors without having to love them.” Grenville Clark—one of a handful of principal leaders of the world federalists— had deep faith in the power of law to accommodate even Russians and Americans, communists and capitalists, just as capital and labor have been brought under one law in national states. All his writings were conceived to bring what we call East and West, North and South under one law. Clark believed that adherence to law was the true ground of human freedom. By eliminating the regime of fear, world law would create cooperative and competitive conditions for an almost unimaginable material and spiritual prosperity. The doctrine of national sovereignty— the defiance of any higher law—he regarded as shameful for man. It was another name for isolationism. He correctly saw that sovereignty, if it means anything at all, means the right of the people to institute new government to effect their safety and happiness [508-09].

4. Two important model world constitutions emerged from the political struggles of the 1940s and ’50s: The Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution of Robert M. Hutchins, G. A. Borgese, and their committee at the University of Chicago (1948), and World Peace through World Law of Grenville Clark and Louis B. Sohn (1958, 1960, 1966). The first is a constitution of “maximal” powers aiming at peace and justice; the second, one of “minimal” or limited powers devoted to maintenance of international peace and security, though with a more liberal amendment procedure to provide for acquisition of greater powers as the revised United Nations proved safe and effective. No other works will so briefly demonstrate what world federalists aimed at. They are the place for students to begin [3-4, 601].

5. The movement left behind a large literature from many countries, voluminous yet neglected, though sometimes its ideas reappear in the more up–to–date forms of functionalism, transnationalism, world order, and global governance. In Britain, Lord Lothian’s Pacifism Is Not Enough, Nor Patriotism Either (1935) is a typical classic. In Italy, Altiero Spinelli and the European Parliament’s Draft Treaty Establishing the European Union (1984) was certainly the most significant recent draft constitution for the practical federation of modern states. In the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev period, Georgi Shakhnazarov’s article, “The World Community Is Amenable to Government [upravlyayemost mirom],” shows how one great power could completely reverse its former opposition. Readers will find literature written in their own languages from the U.S., Britain, Canada, Europe, Mexico, India, and Japan [597].

6. World Federalists succeeded in passing resolutions favoring U.S. participation in a world federal government in some 22 American states, and they introduced 16 resolutions in the U.S. Congress, which led to instructive hearings in the House of Representatives in 1948 and 1949 and in the Senate in 1950. The lead bill, HCR–64, was co-sponsored by 111 representatives, including John F. Kennedy, Christian Herter, Peter Rodino, and Jacob Javits. In the Senate, a world federalist bill was supported by 21, including Hubert Humphrey, Wayne Morse, Claude Pepper, and J. William Fulbright. One of their state resolutions was the “California plan” providing for a Constitutional amendment to permit delegation of U.S. sovereign powers to a higher legal union, analogous to the 37 national provisions. The plan passed in California, Maine, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Florida [300, 263-64, 454].

7. World Peace through World Law made a substantial contribution to the movement for general and complete disarmament that flourished from 1958. After an initiative by Nikita Khrushchev, U.S. Secretary of State Christian Herter made a counter-proposal in Clark and Sohn’s spirit. Herter emphasized four elements of world order, on each of which agreement was essential for safe disarmament: (1) universal acceptance of defined rules of law; (2) creation of an adequate world court to enforce the laws; (3) raising an international armed force superior to any national forces; and (4) disarmament of all nations down to levels required for internal policing. He also recommended an educational program to increase the understanding of these principles by people in government as well as by the American people. Negotiators John J. McCloy and Valerian A. Zorin then produced on 20 September 1961 a historic agreement on the principles of “general and complete disarmament.” The text explicitly set out the military forces, bases, stockpiles, weapons, and expenses to be eliminated; the stages of implementation, with compliance and verification procedures at every stage; the establishment of an international disarmament organization with powers of inspection and control, not subject to a veto; and the creation of a U.N. peace force and of reliable procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes. It was followed by American and Soviet draft treaties on general disarmament in 1962. But the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of Kennedy, the Vietnam War drove the McCloy–Zorin agreement out of mind. In response to the disappointment with disarmament, the Minuteman ICBM was rapidly deployed. Nevertheless, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (1961) survives as a relic of that earlier initiative, and at the United Nations, starting with the first general conference on disarmament (1978), the goal of “general and complete disarmament under effective international control” survived for many years.

8. Over the years, United World Federalists (UWF), in Congress and in public, supported many causes associated with the United Nations: Charter amendment, enforceable disarmament, opposition to the Bricker amendment, decolonization, economic development aid to Third World countries, abolition of the Connally amendment to U.S. participation in the International Court of Justice, an international criminal court, a permanent U.N. peacekeeping force, arms control, a comprehensive (then a partial) test ban, economic conversion from a war economy, human rights, opposition to the Vietnam War, opposition to antiballistic missiles (ABMs) and to multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), a settlement in the Middle East, a world disarmament conference, admission of Communist China to the U.N., world population control, environmental protection, the law of the sea, world order, and strengthening the U.N. These efforts, if they did not reverse a fundamentally national American foreign policy, which remained committed to “peace through strength,” did at least contribute to a climate of opinion in restraint of policy and in some cases to the establishment of new international institutions [510].

9. Federalists also had a tendency to spin–off new organizations, as members of UWF felt the old organization could not respond to new opportunities and directions in the peace movement. Organizations that were founded at least in part by former world federalists include: the Committee on a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) (Norman Cousins, 1957), Members of Congress for Peace through Law (Senator Joseph S. Clark, 1959), Institute for International Order (Harry Hollins, 1960), Coalition on National Priorities and Military Policy (Joseph Clark, 1969), the International Peace Academy (Ruth Young, 1970), the U.N. Special Committee on the Charter and on Strengthening the Role of the Organization (Carlos Romulo, 1974), and Parliamentarians for World Order (Nicholas Dunlop, 1978 [511].

10. The Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution, though it was, as Time magazine said, only “something to think about,” had one notable achievement. In the early 1950s, Robert M. Hutchins, then an associate director of the Ford Foundation, approved a plan by Grenville Clark to create about a dozen centers for the study of world law around the globe. They estimated the project would cost about $25 million. That seemed about the right order of magnitude for the intellectual preparation of countries within the several civilizations to undertake the rule of world law. But the plan was stalled and finally rejected when a narrow majority of the foundation board held that it was “contrary to the policy of our government.” Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who privately expressed belief in the concept of enforceable world law but who publicly was the chief advocate of the containment and even rollback of Communism, apparently sent very mixed signals to the foundation. The upshot was that Clark received only a pittance. But in 1959, Hutchins, with Ford money, founded the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, which did not pose the risks for American foreign policy that a number of centers in many countries would have. The fellows in Santa Barbara did not devote themselves to solution of the ultimate problem of world political unification but to preservation of democratic institutions in the United States. Mortimer Adler, Scott Buchanan, and Rexford Guy Tugwell were familiar participants. (Tugwell drafted a model constitution for the United States.) Elisabeth Mann Borgese also entered the dialogue, and she began there her more transitional work on the law of the sea. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea was signed in 1982, and the U.S. joined that legal regime in 1993 [498, 604].

11. The Foundation for World Government, which was originally funded by Anita McCormick Blaine to support a peoples’ world constitutional convention, had slight but far–seeing achievements. Most of its work took place in brilliant seminars led by Scott Buchanan and Stringfellow Barr. Its funded studies resulted in rather unsuccessful books prepared in the early Cold War in such new fields as functional economic and social cooperation, Gandhian nonviolence, individual educational field work anticipatory of the future Peace Corps, world development corporations like the new World Bank or future U.N. Development Programme, statecraft on the models of the Fabian Society and the World Zionist Organization, world citizenship following French, not American, models, a federation of the federalists leading to establishment of a world federalist political party, and university institutes for world federation to conduct the intellectual research and publication necessary to guide humanity through a very long struggle toward the necessary government of the whole [397].

12. The world federalist movement enunciated fundamental truths about the human condition since the first use of atomic bombs in war. The Declaration of the Dublin Conference of October 1945—like the Statement of Beliefs and Purposes of United World Federalists in 1947—still functions as a lost vision for the future: “Whatever may have been the efficacy of the United Nations Organization for the maintenance of international peace before Aug. 6, 1945, the events of that day tragically revealed the inadequacy of that organization thereafter so to do. “The application of atomic energy to warfare and impressive scientific evidence as to the consequences thereof have made the people of the world realize that the institution of war among nations must be abolished if civilization is to continue. The necessity of immediate action is urgent. There is not a moment to lose. “The menace of total war is of world–wide proportions, particularly in view of the present and future international tensions. The means of preventing war, of protection against it and of control of the major weapons by which it will be waged must also be of world–wide scope if our God–given human freedom and individual liberties are to be preserved and to be promoted. “It is almost axiomatic that there can be no peace without order and no order without law. There can be no world peace until there is world order based upon principles of the limitation and the pooling of national external sovereignty by all nations for the common good of mankind. The only effective means to create such a world order is to establish a world government and to delegate to it limited but definite authority to prevent war and to preserve peace. “Such a government should be based upon a constitution under which all peoples and nations will participate upon a basis of balanced representation which will take account of natural and industrial resources and other factors as well as population. It cannot be based upon treaties establishing leagues of sovereign states in which the states retain unlimited sovereignty and act and vote as states—as in the United Nations Organization. “Since the moral law applies to nations as well as to men, and justice dictates the necessity of seeking the greatest good for the greatest number, such a world government must be a world federal government providing a minimum of centralized control in the world government and a maximum of self–government in the separate nations. This means unity of action in those things necessary to survival and freedom of action to the separate nations in all other matters” [539, 545].

13. World federation survives in the minds of peace workers as a “systemic political approach,” as reflected in the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Approaches to Peace: An Intellectual Map (1991). There, some four large approaches are distinguished: traditional diplomacy, international law, conflict resolution, and systemic political approaches, including world federation [22].

14. World federation, though a revolutionary ideal, is consistent with the heritage of the American Revolution, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution (as in its respect for the “Law of Nations”), and Wilsonianism. “Why has government been instituted at all?” Alexander Hamilton asked. “Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint” (No. 23). In his speeches Woodrow Wilson emphasized the principles of the sovereignty of the people (self–determination), the interdependence of nations (against isolationism), the acceleration of history in the industrial age (“the day of conquest and aggrandizement is gone by”). He spoke of not a balance of power but a union of peoples, not equality of nations but equality of rights, and international cooperation as emerging respect for the rule of world law. “Sometimes people call me an idealist,” said Wilson in Sioux Falls on his cross– country trip to bring the issue of the League of Nations to the people (1919). “Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic country in the world.” [29-31, 42, 47].

15. Toward the end of his life (1967), Grenville Clark was asked why he continued to work to prevent future wars by the establishment of world federal government, which seemed so distant. “My dominant reason,” he replied, “is the sense of shame at the incapacity of the human race to summon enough intelligence and will to solve this problem, when the knowledge and means to solve it are at hand.”