America and the World Crisis


By DR. D. F. FLEMING, Author and Commentator

Delivered over radio station WSM, Nashville, Tennessee, September 21, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 7-8.

I WANT to talk to you tonight about a big word and an old idea. Some perhaps have seldom heard the word, but all of us have the idea in our bones, just as until lately all Americans were ready to fight for the Monroe Doctrine, though many knew only dimly what it was. But it was something old and to be defended.

The word I want to discuss tonight is Sovereignty—S-O-V-E-R-E-I-G-N-T-Y. This is the thing for which the ex-America firsters are now prepared to die. Senator Wheeler gave notice months ago that the United States was not going to give up any of its sovereignty. More recently Clarence Buddington Kelland delivered the same ultimatum and the recent Republican Conference at Mackinac Island called for "responsible participation" by the United States in "An Organization of Sovereign Nations" to prevent future military aggressions. Evidently we are going to hear a great deal about National Sovereignty in the coming months. It is a powerful idea, an explosive one. Arguing about it could cause us to lose the peace after this war. I beg you therefore to do some thinking about this idea of Sovereignty.

What is National Sovereignty? It is the right of every National State to do as it pleases, regardless of what any other nations think about it. It means that each nation is totally independent, subject to no higher authority in any degree whatsoever. It is not possible to conceive of anything above a completely Sovereign Nation. It comes and goes as it wills. It is the judge of its own disputes. It may be reasonable in its quarrels but it reserves the right to impose its will upon all other nations by force, that is by war. The Sovereign State is utterly uncontrollable, supreme, above all law. It stands upon its own bottom, defends its citizens and is a law unto itself.

This is the theory that all nations have been brought up on, especially for the past 200 years. It is obvious, of course, that small nations could enjoy this total sovereignty only in times of tranquillity and only if they did not incur the displeasure of the big powers. When the big powers chose to do so they very severely limited the sovereignty of the smaller states or abolished them altogether.

In the past ten years this process has gone so far that the idea of the Sovereign State has been badly crippled, to say the very least. Beginning in 1931 Chinese Sovereignty was stamped out in Manchuria. Then the Sovereignty of Ethiopia was utterly destroyed in 1935. Next, Spanish Sovereignty was wantonly violated by a full scale Italian and German invasion to impose a Fascist tyranny on the Spanish people. In 1938 Austria's Sovereignty was suddenly wiped out. Then Czechoslovakia's was extinguished. Poland was next and after her nations by the dozen were overrun, looted, enslaved, outraged and starved, both in Europe and in Asia.

In a few cases the Governments of the Nations invaded escaped and have maintained the idea of sovereignty in some foreign land, but everybody knows they are powerless of themselves to liberate their home lands. Can anybody look over the world today and really believe in the validity of the Sovereign State? Where on the entire face of the globe can you find a fully Sovereign State? Certainly you would not put your finger on China, with all the best parts of her huge areas looted and oppressed by the Japanese. Is mighty Russia still a Sovereign State? Hardly, when the best part

of European Russia has been overrun by a pirate state, when 50,000,000 Russians have been terribly abused by the Germans and their cities and farms laid waste. A nation that cannot protect itself any better than that cannot say it possesses anything like absolute Sovereignty.

Where then is the Sovereign State? Does it have its seat in London, the city that would have been blasted from the earth if the Nazis had been a little better prepared? Everyone knows that without the tremendous aid of Russia and the United States British Sovereignty would today be a very slender reed for any people to lean upon. But the United States, surely she is fully Sovereign. Is she, when she was powerless to prevent the disaster which befell us at Pearl Harbor, when for months our East Coast was closely blockaded by submarines? Why are we fighting today, if not to defeat two giant gangster empires before they crushed all others and closed in on us? No nation compelled to fight in every part of the globe and to spend $200,000,000,000 worth of its limited natural resources to ward off a deadly threat to its existence can talk very loudly about its Sovereignty.

The plain truth is that no nation's sovereignty is worth very much in an Anarchical World. It is equally undeniable also that we are living in a condition of world anarchy. Nothing makes sense in anarchy. Shall we then go about solemnly defying anybody to interfere with our sovereignty?

Before we do that let us reflect that on this constantly shrinking planet there can be only one fully Sovereign State. The Nazis might have destroyed all other Sovereignties and made their own good over the entire earth. Then nobody could have questioned the validity of German Sovereignty. Short of that it is conceivable that there might be two or three partly Sovereign Nations—Russia, let us say, on the Eurasian Continent and the United States in the New World. Each might impose its will over half the earth and glory in its Sovereignty—until the two clashed to see whose Sovereignty was really valid. But the idea of sixty fully Sovereign States in the Machine Age adds up to Anarchy. Think it out for yourself and see if you can make anything else out of it. Sixty supreme wills competing with each other and unable to live without access to the markets and raw materials of the entire earth can't add up to anything except Anarchy.

It does not follow that National Sovereignty must now be completely surrendered to a World Government. When the State of Virginia was formed the counties and cities of Virginia did not lose all their powers. They still retain the basic rights of self-government to this day. And when the United States was formed, Virginia did not lose all of her so-called sovereign powers. A fraction did go to the nation, but very important powers still remain to the state of Virginia.

Similarly, we are now compelled to establish a new layer of government above the National States. We shall do that not because we want to, but because people everywhere know that they cannot have peace or security or prosperity without it. We are moving towards World Federation because untold millions of people are learning that the National State can no longer protect them. It may be that a third world war will have to rain bombs down on the great citiesof the Mississippi Valley before we ourselves know that the National State is not enough, but it is only a question of time until every people will demand the protection which only World Government can give.

Will the World Federation then be everything, exercising all power? Why should anyone fear that? It will be given just as little power as will keep the peace. The great bulk of the Sovereign Powers of Government will remain inside the National States. Nationalism is still a tremendously strong force and it will remain so for many generations. The National States will not wither away. On the contrary, they will be the very basis, the foundation of World Federation. Whatever World Government we can agree upon will be the capstone of the structure of civilized living, not the house itself, or even the corner stone. The corner stone will continue to be Self Government in our local communities and the house will be the National State, as far into the future as anyone can see. The World Government will merely make sure that the roofs of our national houses will not be smashed in by hostile bombers. It will exercise police powers, sanitary functions and others, not because of anybody's theories, but because we must have these things done to make life tolerable for us.

We shall have World Federation only because we can no longer get along without it, and it will endure only because it does things that the National State can no longer do for itself. It is thus not our enemy but our indispensable friend.

If this is a true picture of the world we live in—and I leave that to each listener's common sense—what should ourattitude be toward this hallowed idea of the complete Sovereign State? Shall we say "yes we know the thing has disappeared but the idea of Sovereignty has religious, patriotic significance to most people, so we must pussyfoot around it?" Shall we say "we know that a fraction of our Sovereign Power must be transferred to world authority but we must manage it without waking the Ideological Guardians of Sovereignty?"

For some twenty years I went along with that policy of trying to reconcile all international institutions with idea that the dogma of National Sovereignty must not be disturbed. But after this second pitiable collapse of our whole civilization within twenty-five years I cannot stultify myself or the intelligence of others by giving lip service to something that has disappeared before my eyes. The completely Sovereign National State is gone. It has been destroyed in your presence and mine. When Sovereign States have been ruthlessly suppressed by the dozen, when tens of millions of people have been brutally killed, when a full billion human beings have been terrorized for years by world gangsterism ranging over this whole planet, I will not go about telling people that they must tiptoe around the myth of absolute National Sovereignty.

I choose to believe that the American people have grown up enough in the past few years to look the world in the face and to help build a decent World Organization under whose protection all nations can live as human beings ought to live instead of blundering ahead to the destruction of civilization itself.