“The way to peace is through the U. N.”
By Dean Russell
A bit more than a century ago, the most perfect “United Nations” the world has ever known erupted into war. That organization had everything (and then some) that anyone could possibly desire to insure the success of a central government for a group of independent states.
The members of that particular United Nations all spoke the same language. Even so, they still used every weapon known to man to exterminate each other.
They had the advantage of a common religious, racial, and cultural background. Even so, for four years they slaughtered each other at every opportunity.
There were no restrictions against travel or trade among the member states. And still they did a superior job of killing each other.
They had a “Charter” that was generally recognized as ideal for the purpose of uniting independent nations. And still they fought each other in one of the most destructive wars in history.
For years, the member states openly debated the issues that divided them. But as always happens when truly vital issues are discussed by large groups of politicians in public, the resulting inflammatory speeches for “history and home consumption” made the situation worse instead of better.
Those United Nations had the most favorable opportunity yet known to man to prove the thesis that a formal organization can unite nations and preserve the peace when there is a major difference in the philosophies and aims of the member states. And as any objective student of history and government could have predicted, events proved once again that it never works.
You know, of course, that I am referring to the United States and our Civil War. But the same story (in essence) has happened hundreds and thousands of times throughout history — in Greece, in China, in France, in Russia, everywhere and in all ages.
But in spite of that sad history, millions of my fellow citizens continue to put their entire faith in the United Nations as an instrument for world peace. “The United Nations is our last hope to avoid war,” they sincerely plead. “Thus we just must support it, whatever the cost.”
The reality of our situation is this. The peace of the world and the future of mankind rests today on one issue, and on one issue only: Can Russia and the United States co-exist on the same earth? I do not know the answer; I know only that our childish faith in a sterile organization has prevented us from facing the issue realistically.
The time for wishful thinking is long past. The Russian and American camps are separated by fundamental philosophies and goals, not by the absence of a place to meet and to record any agreement the leaders may accept.
The Russians are aware of this. That’s why they have always realistically tolerated and used the United Nations when it advanced their cause, and denounced it totally when any decision went contrary to their wishes. Let us also begin to view that organization objectively.
In our world, there are two fundamental concepts of government and human rights: (1) the source of rights is government itself; (2) rights come from a source other than government.
These two concepts are best illustrated by the constitutions and practices of the Soviet Union and the United States. Here is a typical example from the Soviet Constitution:
Article 125. In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system, the citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed by law: (a) freedom of speech; (b) freedom of the press; (c) freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings; (d) freedom of street processions and demonstrations.
These civil rights are ensured by placing at the disposal of the working people and their organizations printing presses, stocks of paper, public buildings, the streets, communications facilities, and other material requisites for the exercise of these rights.
Under the Soviet concept, all rights come from government. And thus it is the responsibility of government to specify what they are and to provide the people with the means to exercise them.
The other concept is found in our own Constitution: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” And “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects . . . shall not be violated.” And no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Under the traditional American concept, all rights come from a source outside of government; the government is specifically forbidden to violate these pre-existing rights that belong to each individual. And since the rights do not come from government, obviously the state is not responsible for providing the people with the material means for exercising them.
The United Nations is unmistakably modeled on the Soviet concept of rights. To a startling degree, its official documents use the same phrasing found in the Russian Constitution. That fact is discernible in the U. N. Charter itself, but the true philosophy of the United Nations is, of course, most clearly observed in the documents and proceedings of the operating units of the organization — UNESCO, the Commission on Human Rights, and so on. Here is a random sample from the Covenant of Human Rights, sometimes referred to as “the bill of rights” of the U. N.:
Article 21. The states parties to the covenant recognize the right of everyone to just and favorable conditions of work, including: (a) safe and healthy working conditions; (b) minimum remuneration which provides all workers: (1) with fair wages and equal pay for equal work, and (2) a decent living for themselves and their families; and (c) reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Other sections of that covenant specify the right of everyone to “social security,” “adequate housing,” “medical service,” and so on. And all of them are paraphrased from the Soviet Constitution. Under the United Nations concept, all rights clearly come from government, and the government must thus provide all the people with the material means to enjoy them.
As the chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Charles Malik, said, “I think a study of our proceedings will reveal that the amendments we adopted to the old texts under examination responded for the most part more to Soviet than to Western promptings.”
We American people sponsored and endorsed a completely alien concept of government when we joined the United Nations. But such a dramatic change seldom, if ever, happens overnight. I am convinced that we American people really “joined the U.N.” from 1930 to 1945, as we increasingly rejected the traditional American concept of government as a protector of pre-existing rights and decided instead that the government should become the source of rights.
If that is what we really want, we can have it. I am convinced, however, that only a frantic search for world peace keeps us from seeing the United Nations for what it really is— a golden calf that induces blind worship instead of objective reasoning.