The Future World Order


By DOROTHY THOMPSON, Newspaper Columnist

Delivered at Forum on the Future World Order, Hotel Plaza, New York City, May 11, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 533-536.

IN speaking on a subject like this one, I am naturally somewhat hesitant. And I feel, too, that we should be concentrating all our efforts in seeing to do it that we will have something to say about the Future World Order— namely that we win the war. For we are very far fromwinning it at present. Until very recently, the only world order that loomed upon the scene as a possibility of the future was one that would be made by our enemies. We know what that world order would have been—that is to say, I hope we do. Up until the moment of our entering the war therewere a great many people in this country who believed that that world order, designed in Hitler's Berlin and in Tokyo, would be one to which we could adjust ourselves with minor discomforts. The New Order, so-called, is not the order which we are discussing tonight; we are presuming our victory and looking ahead into a future that we shall contribute to make. But it is well before we think of what we shall make to think of what would be made for us were we to lose. The New Order of Hitler is the oldest order known to the long-martyred human race. It is nothing but the re-institution on a world-wide scale of feudalism; true, a new kind of feudalism—new in the sense that it would be instituted in a scientific and technological world. It would be an industrial feudalism, with a concentration of the major productive capacity of the Western world in the hands of a single nation holding the complete police-power, and operating under a strictly hierarchical of castes. And the same would hold true for the East, except that in the East the concentration of industrial and police power would be in the hands of Japan, until such time as the one would challenge the other, as it certainly would.

Our war, therefore, becomes in essence a world-wide campaign to destroy feudalism—political and economical feudalism—and to create a different sort of world. The creation of that different sort of world is victory. And so we certainly have a right now to ask ourselves where we wish the road to victory to lead us.

For a road, presumably, does lead somewhere, unless it is like one of those roads built during the Florida boom, that ran for miles of shining cement highway to end in a morass empty of the city that was never built. Even victory is not an end in itself. It is not the city that has to be built. It is only a lease on the land. Without it, we shall not build the city. We shall live in someone else's city.

The city that we will build is the city of peace. The road to victory is the road to peace. All wars are fought for peace. All wars occur because the conditions for peace do not exist. That is the paradox of war: that it is fought because peace is disestablished, and its only goal is its reestablishment.

When future historians analyse the causes of this war— presuming that they are historians pursuing as best they can objective truth—the causes of it will be found further back than they seem now, to us, to be. And no one will be found guiltless, for there is a negative guilt, as well as a positive guilt. We may say, as we do, "Woe unto him from whom the offense cometh", and pin the immediate guilt upon counter-revolutionary forces in Germany, whose explosion into the outside world released the forces now struggling on every sea and ocean and every continent but one throughout the globe.

Yet, those who held the Peace, because they held the Power, and let it drop through nerveless fingers in twenty years of do-nothingness, cannot be absolved. They failed to establish the foundations of Peace, and, therefore, there was war.

In 1918, we entered an age of illusion. Our primary illusion was to believe that there is an illimitable range of choices regarding the establishment of Peace. We thought, for instance, that justice to nations, represented by the right of self-determination of ethnic groups, would of itself bring Peace. And, never was a purer attempt made to find Peace by this manner. The borders drawn in Europe were traced by disinterested "experts" professors, students of ethnology, and statisticians. They were as near perfection as it is possible to come, in areas where races and groups are inextricably mixed. Without coercion of the populations, democratic governments, democratic, at least politically, wereestablished in both the conquered and liberated areas. And the idea was that such a higher form of government would survive by itself and would assure Peace.

Behind these and other measures which were taken in 1918, lay the concept of pre-established harmony, a quasi-Rousseau philosophy that peace is normal and war abnormal and that therefore a minimum of general human decency would secure Peace, an unjustified idealization of mankind and of human society. Peace it was thought, in 1918, is normal and War an aberration. Now, normalcy, which the dictionary finds it extremely difficult to define, except in mathematical terms, where it can be measured by a fixed standard, means in social life—because it cannot mean anything else—the average of experience. And in the question of war and peace there is no historical justification for the theory that peace is normal and war abnormal. Neither is there any justification in biology. The laws of nature are expressed in the rhyme: "All little fleas have bigger fleas upon their backs to bite them, and bigger fleas still bigger fleas, and so ad infinitum." The belief that peace is normal arises not out of experience but out of desire. The eternal cycle of war and peace, which is the experience of history, can only be interrupted by acts of free will, and not by reference to "laws of nature." Peace is a human institution. It is created. It is a work of intellect and art and politics. Those who put upon their banner a pagan symbol of the whirling cross of fire, and acclaim the worship of natural forces, aver as their highest heroism that nature should take her course, and therefore, with bleak resignation accept war as natural and aver that peace is the end of the quintessence of force—namely that there is no one else left on the globe to fight.

Now we repudiate this. We entertain another conception, namely that man is not a victim of nature, but a co-creator of it with God. It is our failure to take upon ourselves this act of co-creation, to construct the universe that we desire that has brought down our peace. For peace, as we have seen, does not exist by virtue of non-violence in the individual, or of non-intervention in the course of affairs. Those like Mr. Gandhi, who believe that the world is all illusion anyhow and that all life is spiritual and internal, may accept such a view of peace and maintain it in the midst of war, but such has never been the philosophy of the West, nor the Christianity of the West.

The Nazis, accepting the natural cycle of war and peace and being dissatisfied with the peace, have organized war. We, being against war, have not prepared for war, but neither have we organized peace. Hence a prepared explosion that burst into what proved to be a vacuum, only now being filled by a halfway adequate resistance.

The road to victory is first of all a road back from illusions to reality. We have to extinguish the explosion and reorganize peace. And we have to reorganize it on logic and experience and not on unproven assumptions about human nature. Ideals are content; they are not structure.

We do not know the future; we do know the past. And in the past there have been only three ways of keeping peace over long stretches of time. Eternal peace is unknown. Two ways are: (1) The domination of the known world by a single power. The example is Rome. (2) The maintenance of a balance of power. The example is a hundred years of the Pax Britannica of Britain.

There is a third way, which we reach by the logic of examples never tried on an international scale, but which is our way of living, internally in peace within states. That is the organization of a society in which organized groups, or even states, relinquish a part of their sovereignty in the interest of creating a larger and more rational order. TheUnited States of America is the most distinguished example. And, if you are familiar with the Federalist Papers, you know that the apologists for the Constitution recommended it pre-eminently as a structure for maintaining peace between the states. The Swiss Republic, the Union of South Africa, the Dominion of Canada and the Soviet Union are a few examples of states of states, and they suggest in logic an infinite enlargement of the idea.

There are no other ways than these three to create a structure for the maintenance of peace. History cannot suggest any others, nor can logic find any.

The first is Hitler's way, and it is what we are fighting. We do not choose to live in a world dominated by one people or by two or three. The analogy of the Roman Empire must be brought into perspective. It was an empire based on slavery and on the shameless exploitation of "barbarians." And the Romans, though they maintained centuries of peace in the sense of no external wars, since there were no organized external bodies strong enough to challenge them, had no internal peace at all, but were engaged constantly in the suppression of rebellions.

The justification that they brought superior culture to barbarians can also not be used to extenuate Hitler's expansion. For the culture of the Germans is in no sense superior to that of any Western peoples, and except for technology, which is the easiest of all things to make universal—their expansion coincides with a cultural regression—a regression in law, in pure science, in literature and in the arts.

If we repudiate this, we are therefore left with the other two choices. And, indeed, Hitler himself has already been forced back from his first dream. For, unable to master the world alone, he has allied himself with Japan, who claims a very large share of the globe, and Hitler is forced to the "sphere of influence" theory, which is not even Balance of Power, but can only be preparation for another colossal war between the white and the colored races.

This war, like the first world war, occurred because the second of the two choices, the Balance of Power, broke down. It broke down in the first instance because the Second German Empire of the Kaiser felt itself strong enough to challenge the Pax Britannica based on Balance of Power, and it broke down in the second instance because the United States, by a policy of isolation, refused to restore the balance following the last victory.

Now, let us consider attempting to restore Balance of Power after this war. Let us assume that this is our Road to Victory and to Peace.

As long as Europe was the center of the world, which was up to circa 1914, a balance of power held in Europe was a balance of power held in the world. For Europe ruled the world. Its word was law throughout Asia, and even the United States, to say nothing of Latin America, were subject, economically, to Europe. We, actually, were a debtor nation, previous to the last war.

The British theory of balance was never to allow a single power to become dominant on the peninsula of Asia called Europe. When France threatened to become so, Britain threw her weight with the weaker states; when Germany threatened, she threw her weight with France. The realization that this was a fixed British policy was a restraining factor, and British power was such that its mere existence deterred great aggressions. And with this policy we had a century of approximate peace—there were wars but no universal wars. And we had a century of unparalleled expansion, culture and prosperity.

Now, it is obvious today that Europe is no longer the center of the universe, and that the European balance of power, even if restored, would not be decisive for the maintenance of the peace of the globe. For one thing, as this war has proved, Russia, which is a Eurasian power, is one of the dominant factors with which we have to reckon. The United States is another. Factors of geography and industrial potential figure in this. The modern world is a world in which industrial potential is decisive and that industrial potential that includes raw materials is most decisive. The United States and Russia are the only highly developed industrial countries that fulfill these requirements. All Europe, without Russia, does not fulfill them. Neither does Britain, whose raw materials have to be brought from the ends of the earth over oceans difficult to protect, and whose center is extremely vulnerable.

The geographical situation of both Russia and the United States are not dissimilar, except that the United States is, geo-politically speaking, an island. But both are able to shift their weight either westward or eastward to Europe or Asia.

So an adequate Balance of Power for our security after this war demands two pillars: Russia and the United States. A Russian block and an American block, and both cooperating with the British world, however it evolves. There is no geographical and no economic antagonism between Russia and the United States. Such an antagonism would arise if Russia should sweep through Europe to the Rhine, as it would have arisen in time under any circumstances, if Germany should sweep through Russia to the Urals. For the very center of world domination, as both the British geo-politician Sir Halford Mackinder and the German Haushofer fully realize, is the territory between the Rhine and the Urals, or the Elbe and the Urals, which is the juncture of Europe and Asia and Africa. In Balance of Power politics, this area must be divided between several powers, and indeed, from a purely power-politics stand-point, the weakness of the peace-treaty was its failure to create a really powerful federation of states between Germany and Russia. It is absolutely logical that this second world war should have originated in Czecho-Slovakia and Poland. Actually, in 1931, writing in the Saturday Evening Post, in an article called "Gangway for Mars," I predicted that the second world war would start over the issue of Danzig.

Yet, no permanent peace can be built on Balance of Power. A deal more permanent peace can be built on it than was built on the last peace treaty. Domination can be built upon what the Germans are trying to do—even if they should relinquish the whole of Western Europe, for between the Rhine and the Urals, to be built into a monolithic state, are no less than three hundred million people, and the center of the heaviest industry of the Eastern hemisphere. And against that two hundred million Western Europeans would live by sufferance, a contiguous complex of half a billion people, or twice as many as are in the whole Western hemisphere.

Yet even broken up in the balance that I have suggested as a minimum possibility, balance of power is what its name suggests: an essay in equilibrium. And equilibrium shifts very easily. It presumes that nations are static, and they are not. Who can foresee what will be the strength of China or India in a hundred years' time—or in a generation? And who knows on what side of the scales such a weight would eventually fall? One thing is certain: In a peace based upon Balance of Power the main efforts of the nations are directed to the maintaining of it or the challenging of it. It is not a structure. It is a scales.

There remains for us one choice—one choice, so far untried as between nations, though not as between states. That is the creation of a mutual association of the nations of the world. It was not tried in the League of Nations. That was an association of foreign offices, and it had no power structure, without which nothing is more than a blueprint. At first sight, this seems a Utopian dream, but actually, given the mind and will to do it, it is easier than the other. Modern communications and technology make it imperative. A mind like H. G. Wells' that could foresee the shape of things to come in the gigantic destructive power of modern science could argue logically therefrom for some sort of world government, of a strictly limited variety. It takes no particular vision to see that the terrible instruments of today will be nothing compared to the instruments of tomorrow. We are, for instance, on the verge of developments in atomic disintegration which theoretically at least foreshadow the possibility of removing whole areas from the face of the earth, and from immense distances in some future total war.

Is it not possible that from a Balance of Power we may move with extreme rapidity to an organization of the world? Already the United Nations are moving toward the creation of a common police force, through the pooling of their military resources. To an extent they are voluntarily abandoning sovereignty over them. Is it not possible to see this enlarging to a common police force for the globe? Canthe problems of raw materials and surplus commodities be solved on the basis of a balance of power? They cannot.

The organization of the world is possible, if and when an agreement for that goal is reached between four great nations: the United States; the inter-continental empire of Britain; the Eurasian country of Russia, and one powerful land area in the Far East: China or India. Such a combination could and would, if victorious in war, attract to itself the whole world if entry into it on the basis of equality is granted. Given the solidity of such a combination, we would need have no fear of the creation of larger units in Europe through federations. The agreement between the four nations is possible because none of them is, for foreseeable time, antagonistic one to the other. All other political questions become minor in such a structure. And only in such a structure can economic problems become adjusted, if not solved.

If we have this vision of what to do with victory, we are already on the road to victory, for we move purposefully and not blindly and remove from between ourselves the sources of friction. We presume that United Nations are the nucleus of a united world, and that having begun to count A. B. C. D.—America, Britain, China, Dutch-—we can extend the count to "Z".

The future is always inscrutable, and nothing is permanent, but we can only act with reason, logic and experience, plus our idealism translated into will.