Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …

Posted on August 25th, by A. Robert Johnson in Foreign Policy. Comments Off on Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …

“I did an immense amount of work on this. You could not become an authority on international government in 1915 by reading books, because the books did not exist; you had to go to what are called original sources. I had therefore to read Blue Books and White Books and annual reports dealing with such vast international organizations as the Universal Postal Union or the International Institute of Agriculture, and I had many interviews with civil servants and others who attended the conferences or congresses of these unions or associations as national representatives. It was perhaps from these interviews that I learnt the most; I remember, in particular, the fascinating account of the problems of international government in the Universal Postal Union with the Post Office civil servant who represented Britain at the Union’s Congress gave to me. It was he who told me the wonderful story of the bibles in Persia, which is worth telling again.

“It was the rule of the Union that each country retains the sums which it receives from postal matter despatched from it. This on the whole works out fairly, but in 1906 Persia brought to the notice of the Union a case of considerable hardship. Persia is inhabited mainly by Muhammadans, Great Britain by Christians. The Christians of Great Britain and the U.S.A. have a passion for sending bibles to the Persian Muhammadans, but the Persian never sends his Koran to Britain or America. There were no railways in Persia, and the Persian government had to provide every year at vast expense strings of camels to carry the hundreds of foreign bibles to its subjects. The British and American governments retained all the large sums paid by their Christian subjects for postage on these bibles; the Persian government got nothing, and as Persians write few letters and send fewer parcels to foreigners, the Persians were being ruined by the Holy Bible. The justice and eloquence of the Persian plea had its effect upon representatives of the other nations at the Postal Congress and a new Article was added to the Convention of 1906 authorizing Persia to levy a special duty on all printed matter sent by post into the country.

“The two reports which I had written and our draft treaty were published by me in a book, International Government, in 1916. It had, I think, some effect; it was used extensively by the government committee which produced the British proposals for a League of Nations laid before the Peace Conference, and also  by the British delegation to the Versailles Conference. My authority for this statement comes from Sir Sydney Waterlow, Philip Noel-Baker, who was secretary, and Lord Cecil, who was head of the League of Nations Section of the British Delegation. Sydney Waterlow was in the Foreign Office and in 1918 he was instructed to draw up a confidential paper on ‘International Government under the League of Nations’ for use by the British Delegation at Versailles. He gave me a copy. In the prefatory note he said: ‘The facts contained in Part I are taken almost entirely from “International Government”, by L. S. Woolf (1916). Where a mass of facts has been collected and sifted with great ability, as is the case with Mr. Woolf’s work, it would be folly to attempt to do the work over again, especially as time presses. My detailed descriptions of the various existing organs of international government are therefore for the most part lifted almost verbatim, with slight abridgements, from Mr. Woolf’s book.’

“…I have described in the first volume of my autobiography (Sowing, pp. 175-182) how as young men of 19 and 20 we felt ourselves to be part of, active agents in, a great social revolution: ‘We were not, as we are today, fighting with our backs to the wall against a resurgence of barbarism and barbarians. We were not part of a negative movement of destruction against the past. We were out to construct something new; we were in the van of the builders of a new society which should be free, rational, civilized, pursuing truth and beauty. It was all tremendously exhilarating.’ The Dreyfus case, as I explained, seemed to us to be a turning point in this new struggle for liberty, equality, fraternity, and justice, and when the last innocent man was reinstated, there was this tremendous feeling of release and exhilaration for those who stood on the side of truth and justice in this ‘struggle between two standards of social and therefore of human value.’

“The outbreak of the Russian revolution of 1917 produced the same feeling of liberation and exhilaration. In the long, grim history of despotisms the Tsarist regime of the 19th century must take a high place for savage, corrupt, and incompetent government. Even among the European royal families the Romanovs were distinguished for their unbalanced minds or feeble intellects, yet the Tsars exercised greater and more irresponsible power than even the German and Austrian Kaisers. Their ministers were second-rate men who ruled and were ruled by terror, for they administered a police state and were removed from office either by the whim of the Tsar or an assassin’s bullet. …The terrifying barbarism of the aristocracy is shown by the fact that the mother of Turgenev, one of the most civilized and sophisticated of Russian writers – he died three years after I was born – had the right to flog her servants to death and exercised it. Though the government allowed Turgenev’s mother to freely torture and kill her servants, he himself in 1852 was put under arrest for a month because he said publicly the ‘Gogol was a great man.’ The government attempted to rule by violence and terror, secret police and wholesale deportations to Siberia, the encouragement of anti-Semitism and pogroms; they not unnaturally begat an opposition which came to rely upon similar methods of murderous terrorism.”

Comments are closed.