WE MUST CREATE A FULLY ORGANIZED WORLD SOCIETY
By DR. F. CYRIL JAMES, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University
Delivered at the Western Hemisphere Luncheon given under the auspices of Survey Associatesin New York City, March 29, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 434-436.
AT the end of the last war mankind realized clearly that human progress depended, in large measure, upon the effective organization of human society on a global basis. The League of Nations was a crystallization of that ideal, a body in which the activities of the Assembly and the Council should provide a forum for effective discussion of world problems by representatives of all the interested countries, while the Secretariat, with its many expert subdivisions, was intended to serve as a permanent co-ordinating and executive agency. Practical idealism did not, however, stop short at the creation of the League of Nations. Labour problems were generally regarded as peculiarly important to the social welfare of national communities, and the International Labour Office was also created under the Treaty of Versailles, with representatives on its Governing Board not only from national governments but also from organized Trade Unions and Employers' Federations.
In addition to the public opinion that created these specific institutional creations, there was a general feeling that a permanent world society could not exist unless the economic organization of the world permitted freedom of intercourse in matters of commodity trade, human migration and capital movement. There was a desire to restore the international gold standard which, during the nineteenth century, had been not only a monetary mechanism but the nucleus and physical embodiment of an economic philosophy. Indeed, the restoration of the gold standard, during the ten years that followed the Armistice, showed more clearly than the work of either the League or the International Labor x1'lyyyyyyyy\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\Office the extent of men's desire to create a more satisfactory world. At the end of 1929, this gold standard was, at least in legal fiction, more widespread than it had ever been, at any time, prior to 1914, and there had been created, as institutional mechanisms to facilitate its operation, the great Bank for International Settlements at Basle, as well as the smaller, but none the less important, International Agricultural Mortgage Credit Bank. In those days when Ivar Krueger was still one of the more dazzling figures of work finance, there were serious plans for the creation of an International Intermediate Credit Bank which should facilitate the flow of funds to the poorer areas of the world, and attain the aims that had been envisaged for many years by men like Lord Stamp and M. Emile Francqui.
This concept of world organization has been seriously overshadowed. The outbreak, in Europe, of a new war against the devastating menace of Nazi autarchy may seem to have given the last blow to the concept of a world enjoying, across the Seven Seas, peace and prosperity, but the ideals of the immediate postwar period had already received a mortal blow when the years that followed the international panic of 1931 saw the gradual disintegration of the gold standard organization and the development, in one country after another, of desperate policies of economic nationalism. Even though we still use many of the same phrases, the vitality of the earlier ideas had vanished and restrictive "New Economic Policies" had taken their place.
He would, however, be a very short-sighted man who looking backward over the past two decades, should decide
that the international efforts which I have mentioned, were cither ill-judged or valueless. Although the League of Nations and its satellite bodies attracted the greater attention of mankind because, like Minerva, they had sprung fully armed from the brain of the Peace Conference and seemed, in that first gallant flourish of their youth, destined to save the world, there are two international institutions which existed long before 1918 and have, even today, lost none of their inherent vitality.
The first of these, the Pan American Union, is so well known to all of you that detailed description is unnecessary. Beginning a century ago, as a voluntary congregation of peoples who had newly won their freedom by valiant efforts, it was then, and still is, a conscious association of the nations of the Americas designed to enhance the strength of each, and maximize the welfare of all, by means of cooperative policies. But today the Pan American Union is more than that. As my distinguished fellow speaker, Mr. Berle, in his recent article in the Survey Graphic, has pointed out, the Pan American Union has today become a regional "climate of opinion" in which men of many countries share the same ideals and work, either cooperatively or along parallel lines, toward the same aims. Even though we, in North America, may hear most about the economic and social experiments which have been conducted in the United States during the past eight years, the thoughtful reader knows that comparable experiments, inspired by the same ideals, have been going on in many of the South American Republics, so that the Americas are today more closely linked by economic and spiritual bonds than at any previous time.
Like unto the Pan American Union is the second of our great institutions, the British Commonwealth of Nations. Its origins were vastly different. It began as an empire of the old-fashioned kind, comprising areas won by warfare or exploration and united under the imperial rule of the home government. But the British people has traditionally had a faculty for preserving names while remodeling the institutions to which they apply. By a process that has broadened out from precedent to precedent, the organization which many of us still call "The British Empire" has become a community of free peoples, loose in the legal bands that might be considered necessary to enforce union but strongly coordinated by those spiritual qualities which produce true unity. In essence, it is, like the Pan American Union, a climate of opinion in which men in the various dominions throughout the world share a common ideal.
Canada, by virtue of her heritage and of her geographic position, is interested in the policies of both there organizations. She looks toward horizons in the east, as well as in the south. Because of her proud membership in the British Commonwealth of Nations, Canada today is the only country in the Americas that is at war with Germany and Italy. She is at war not because of any British domination of her policy, but because the closeness of her relations with Great Britain and Europe during the three centuries that lie behind us has bred in her a realization that the menace of Fascism and National Socialism is one that affects directly the whole spirit of our western civilization. Borrowing a fundamental statement of belief from Abraham Lincoln, she realizes that world society, like national society, cannot in this generation survive if it be half slave and half free.
I should be doing less than justice to my compatriots if I did not emphasize the fact that Canada is whole-heartedly in the present struggle of her own volition, and by specific Act of the Dominion Parliament. She is making heavy sacrifices, both of men and of resources; making them willingly and with enthusiasm. Yet even in this effort, where she might legally be assumed to follow a lonely road, Canada hasfound great spiritual encouragement in the generous support which has been extended to the British arms by the passage of the Lease-Lend Bill and the Seven Billion Dollars' Appropriation Bill a few days ago, has, in a real sense, changed the situation for Canada as well as for the armies of democracy that are now fighting in Britain, in Greece and in Africa. It has been the lack of material supplies in adequate quantities that has caused the deepest concern to British thinkers during the last six month. Given those materials, the ships and tanks and guns and aeroplanes which are now made available through the policies of the United States, there can be no question about the ultimate outcome.
But if Canada is playing her part in this struggle because of the climate of opinion which she shares with Great Britain and Europe, her position among the nations of the Americas has made her continuously aware, even during the darkest hours of the struggle, that much will remain to be done, after we have attained a military victory, if we are to realize fully the ideals for which the forces of democracy are fighting. Canadians realize, as every other people in this hemisphere realizes, that a military victory of itself is not the final solution of all the problems of world organization and social welfare, but merely a new opportunity granted by the gods to mankind, an opportunity which if we use it wisely will permit the ultimate attainment of the ideals for which good men have striven during many centuries past.
Canada, although the greater part of her efforts must today be devoted to the prosecution of the war, is already considering carefully the problems of reconstruction and rehabilitation which will inevitably present themselves at this war's end. In this field, too, I think that Canada is sharing in the climate of opinion which predominates throughout the whole of North and South America, and I should like to suggest to the peoples of all countries represented in this room today that the nations of this hemisphere have a great opportunity and an equal responsibility. They are today free from that menace of attack and destruction which must impair the long-range programmes of England or Greece. They are free from the dangers of annihilating invasion which have destroyed the possibilities of planning in half a dozen European countries. They are even free from that degree of concentration on war effort which preoccupies Canada. Their freedom provides an opportunity in which they can, and must, consider carefully those problems which all the nations of the world will face when war is done, in order that from their quiet study and free discussion they may be able to offer advice and assistance in the day when we must all gird up our loins and undertake the stupendous task of creating, in actuality, the world for which Canada is now fighting.
Mr. Berle, and others, have shown by their careful studies the economic interdependence of all men in modern capitalistic society, and the need for some measure of conscious direction of human affairs if we are to avoid economic shipwreck. The experiences of 1932 and 1933 convinced every citizen of the United States that social welfare is not dependent upon a man's own efforts but upon that nice balance and adjustment of all the affairs in our society which permit the coordinated development of all economic enterprises and of each geographical region. The developments in international economic affairs since Great Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931 have just as clearly taught us that this interdependence does not stop at national boundaries. The failure of a mortgage bank in Vienna may ultimately cause losses amounting to millions of dollars to bank depositors in the United States; sweated labor in Japanese textile factories may impose privation upon the families of mill-hands in New Hampshire.
It is apparent, therefore, that at the end of this war wemust either create a fully organized world society, with all that that involves in terms of the cooperation of free peoples, or else we must turn our back upon the ideals that men have dreamed and short-sightedly accept the lower ideal of competitive regional economies, each desperately strangling itself in the effort to put something over on its neighbors and maintain its own economic independence. Twenty years have taught us that there is no half-way house in which a people can live comfortably. Either we must advance to the fuller ideal or retreat to the lower.
The two horizons of Canada are, therefore, just as real for all the nations of this hemisphere as they are for the land that Kipling once called "Our Lady of the Snows." Wemust look outward, as well as inward. To regard the Americas as an isolated region, content to work out its own problems behind oceanic barriers that isolate this hemisphere both from the East and from the West, would be an admission of blank despair at this crucial moment in the history of western civilization. Rather, let us look upon these nations of the western hemisphere as a group of friendly countries that are already able to explore the political and economic problems of living together in a large society, finding solutions that men of good will in every other nation can adopt, and developing among themselves an organization which shall serve as the nucleus of the greater world society which we hope to attain.