Founding of the UN: Part IV

Bill Sr. (‘Talking It Over’: THE WITNESS, May 31, 1945)

San Francisco:–Some years back I was a labor manager for a large clothing firm with the job of seeing that the terms of a contract entered into with a union were maintained. There were to be no strikes or stoppages of work since the contract provided impartial machinery for the settling of all disputes, whatever they were. But there were many times during those days when workers with a grievance, real or imaginary, violated their agreement by folding their hands and refusing to work. The reason was simple: for years those workers, without a union, without any other way of righting a wrong, had used a stoppage of work as their only weapon. It was impossible to change them over night simply because the president of the firm and the president of their union had signed a piece of paper. They had to be reconditioned to peace and it took time. But it was accomplished so that today there are neither stoppages nor labor managers since things run so smoothly that they are not necessary.

The United Nations Conference will set up a world organization to maintain peace. It was for that purpose that delegations from forty-nine nations, with their staffs of technicians and experts, came to this city. They will accomplish their aim and in doing so will do more to give the world peace and security than any meeting in history. It is tremendously important for all of us to keep constantly in mind that the creation of machinery to maintain peace is the primary objective of the Conference, with all other things secondary. This has been stressed repeatedly by leaders here.  Mr. Eden made it clear in his opening speech. Mr. Stettinius said it over and over again–’we are here dealing only with machinery; no consideration will be given at his Conference to specific problems.’

Naturally many are disappointed, particularly the hordes of people who are here on the fringe using pressure to have their own special interests served. But if you will read back over the record since April 24th I think you will agree that the Conference ran into most of its difficulties when it considered matters that never should have come before it. This Conference was not called to settle disputes between the London and Warsaw Poles; between the Jews and Arabs over Palestine; between empires and their colonies. This is not a world legislature but an organizing committee out of which will come the set-up with the apparatus to deal with all the hard problems that confront the world. And if that is accomplished, and it is going to be, then the Conference of the United Nations will be the most successful international meeting ever held. Out of it will come, as Mr. Stettinius has pointed out, ‘new world community institutions such as courts, police organizations, parliamentary and welfare groups.’ He also said that great emphasis is being placed on the importance of the Economic and Welfare Council of the World Organization. ‘Men see,’ our Secretary of State told the reporters, ‘that they have to create a world economy that will give to the people and nations the things they need. You can’t talk peace to hungry people.’

That it s a tremendous and long time job, of course; everyone in his senses knows. The people of India want to be free. The people of Africa want to be free. The people of the world want to be rid of armaments and all the burdens that go with war. This Charter, which will be signed by the representatives of forty-nine nations, will, when ratified by their governments, create the machinery for the peaceful settlement of these and many other problems. But it is of course silly to think that all the problems are to disappear merely because forty-nine men put their signatures on a document. The people of this world are conditioned to get things the hard way — by fighting for it. It is going to take a long time to educate them to understand and use the machinery being created here. So we ought not to expect too much too soon. If it took four or five years to educate 2000 workers in a factory how to work under an agreement which provided the machinery for peaceful living, you can imagine the difficulties we are going to have making the World Organization effective. Again to quote Mr. Stettinius:

‘The millennium will not arrive the morning after the conference closes but we will be able to say we have made distinct progress toward world peace.’  And as far as I am concerned –and in spite of all the crabbing and knocking and pessimism that one reads and hears over the radio–I think that is an understatement.

There is another angle to this Conference which i want to report, and that is the recognition by our State Department that there are people other than governmental officials who are interested in world organization.  From the very first release of the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals the people, individually and collectively, have been encouraged to offer their suggestions and criticisms. The attitude was illustrated by a story told by Archibald MacLeish at one of the meetings held daily here for the representatives of national organizations, sponsored by the State Department. At a meeting on Dumbarton Oaks held this past winter, a woman representing a large organization interested in peace came to him and said; ‘Mr. MacLeish I am here upon your invitation. But I want it distinctly understood that I did not come in order to find out what the State Department wants me to do. i came in order to make the State Department do what I want it to do.”

If the State Department is not doing what the people want to have done it is surely not because the Department has not made every effort to understand the will of the people. There are 75 national organizations represented here, each with two consultants. There were those who came thinking that it was a mere gesture and that they would neither be consulted or taken seriously if they were. All of them now testify that quite the opposite is true. They do meet regularly with the American delegation and many of the amendments, particularly those dealing with human rights and basic freedoms, can be credited to these consultants. Commander Stassen paid a great tribute to this group at one of his press conference. Likewise did Mr. Stettinius who told reporters that ‘many suggestions made by individual citizens or civic groups are reflected in these amendments’ and he went on to describe the assistance and advice of the consultants as ‘invaluable.’ ‘Seldom,’ he said, ‘has there been a greater demonstration of respect for democratic rights or a fuller proof of the high value of democratic procedures.’

All of which is something for all of us to remember when the Charter being drafted here goes to the United States Senate. That will be another time when we have to make the democratic process work by insisting upon ratification.”