Feed the World and Save the League, 1920 (fragment)


[missing page(s)] enlarged and [democratized] for the purpose of peace. These bodies, however, autocratic and bourgeois in character during the war, constitute the beginnings of an [organized] economic government of the world. They represent at least a departure in principle from the old order of individual competition in [favor] of one of international [cooperation] on a basis of real need and common welfare. They should be made the beginnings of a constructive international society.

They therefore recommended three concrete measures apart from the revision of the Peace Treaty.

1. A complete raising of the blockade EVERYWHERE, in PRACTICE as well as IN NAME.

2. Granting CREDITS to enemy and to liberated countries alike, to enable them to obtain food and raw materials sufficient to put them in a position where they can begin to help themselves.

3. Measures for the special relief of children EVERYWHERE, without regard to the political allegiance of their parents; and the provision of hospital necessaries.

How simple and adequate these three recommendations are and yet how far reaching in their consequences!

Doubtless there would be a great sense of relief as the result of open dealing and plain speech and from the acknowledgement of the part business enterprises already assume in the direction of foreign relationships.

To drop the 18th century phrases in which diplomatic intercourse seems to be conducted for plain economic terms fitted to the matter in hand, would certainly have its advantages. Such a course might make it easier to discuss credit for reconstruction purposes, the need of an internationally guaranteed loan, the function of a recognized international Economic Council for the control of food stuffs and raw material, the world wide fuel shortage, the effect of [malnutrition] on powers of production, the irreparable results of "hunger [edema]," even [page 2] the 12,000,000 Germans whom it is estimated must emigrate if the rest are to survive.

Some brave spirit might even point out that it is useless to hold an International Labor Congress in order to raise the standard of life and wages throughout the world, if famine continues to steadily depress that standard throughout the great manufacturing regions of Europe. Out of his wide experience in feeding devastated Europe, Mr. Hoover once said (perhaps hastily) "There are certain foundations of industry in Europe that no matter what the national or personal ownership or control may be, yet partake of the nature of public utilities in which other nations have a moral right."

Certainly such a situation presents material for a statesmanship which is genuine and straightforward and absolutely essential to the feeding of Europe's hungry children.

If such an atmosphere of discussion and fiery knowledge of current conditions as revealed by war, were once established, the promoters of the League might at last feel "the zeal, the tingle, the excitement of reality," or quoting James further come to realize that "whenever a process of life communicates an eagerness to him who lives it, there the life becomes genuinely significant." Is it this significance which at present the League so sadly lacks?

They assume that the rights of the League are anterior to and independent of its functioning, forgetting that men are instinctively wary in accepting at their face value, high sounding claims which cannot justify themselves by achievement, and that in the long run, "authority must go with function."

They also ignore the fact that the stimuli they are counting upon are failing to evoke an adequate response for this advanced form of human effort. Nevertheless they stupidly refuse to unite men of all [page 3] nations into an overwhelming devotion to a common cause by appealing for their immediate aid in feeding a starved and starving world.

The adherents of the League often speak as if they were defending a too radical document whereas it fails to command wide spread confidence because it is not radical enough, because it clings in practice at least to the old self-convicted diplomacy which failed to avert a war responsible for the death of 10,000,000 soldiers, as many more civilians and an unestimated amount of civilization's goods.

Could revolutionary governments be charged with a more ghastly toll of human life and a heavier destruction of property.

Why then are the governments so responsible for the [devastations] of a world war, so timid in undertaking restoration on the same scale?

Why do they so persistently hesitate to discharge their obvious obligations which can only be undertaken by international authority. While the League hesitates one people after another institute some form of revolutionary government, hoping thus to be fed [although] knowing full well that no nation can adequately feed itself without free access to international commerce.

The "land question," one of the gravest aspects of food production, has been taken up since the war with sharpened temper. Inevitably in the feudal countries Russia, Hungary and [Romania] with their huge undivided estates, the treatment has been most drastic [although] in Italy the cooperative associations and in every country in Europe groups of working men, in a more sober temper, are formulating the same demands in the name of their starving children.

Why does the League refuse to become the instrument of a new order and insist upon turning over all the difficult problems resulting at least in their present acute form, from a world war, to those who [page 4] must advocate revolution in order to obtain the satisfaction of acknowledged human needs?

May the time have now come to satisfy these cravings at least to make certain that all men shall be insured against death by starvation, to follow not only the religious command but a primitive instinct to feed the hungry, upon an international scale? Why should this great human experiment be turned over solely, to those who must appeal to the desperate need of the hungry to feed themselves. May not, this demand in its various aspects afford a great controlling motive in the world at the present moment, as political democracy, as religious freedom, has moved the world at other times?

One dreamed that the League of Nations would take up these matters. Such a question as is implicit in the lack of space for the Japanese in their own islands which are manifestly too small for their expanding population. We are told that Japan averages more than 2500 persons per cultivated square mile in contrast to less than 50 persons per square mile in the United States. As the Japanese are not allowed to emigrate to Australia, to British Columbia, the United States or Mexico, that to find a place of them under fair conditions is exactly the sort of function the League of Nations might be expected to perform if only to avert one of the most ancient causes of war. The land hunger of compressed peoples might afford an added motive to a League pledged to the world as an agency to end war.

But it is hard to imagine such a question being fairly considered by the same men who in another capacity as members of the Peace Conference recognized the claims of Japan to a part of China, which was already so crowded that it is said to be difficult to make room for another baby within its borders, men who had looked at the entire [page 5] Japanese question from the point of view of political claims rather than the great human needs.

It is not that one wishes to decide for or against the wisdom in making the political decision to which they felt themselves bound by the exigencies of the complicated situation, but one is free to say within the limits of fair discussion, that these same men have not apprehended the only great concept upon which a new great international League may be founded.

In the direction of Public Health, so closely allied to adequate feeding, the League of Nations did formally promise to function, perhaps because it is so obvious that disease germs have no respect for political boundaries. Many efforts had already been made for the protection against the spread of infectious disease by an international authority during the last decade of the 19th century. The League of Nations although recognizing its duty to Public Health fails to assume economic obligations without which it cannot be fulfilled.

In Paris last May when associations of Red Cross societies was organized committing itself to the fight against tuberculosis, a well considered program of Child Welfare and other humanitarian measures for devastated Europe, a letter was received from Mr. Balfour on behalf of the League of Nations. He made an eloquent appeal for succor against the disease afflicting the war worn and underfed populations of central and eastern Europe.

The Association of Red Cross Societies replied that it was the starving man who must readily contract and spread disease, and that only if the Allied governments supplied loans to these unhappy nations could food and medical supplies be secured. This of course Mr. Balfour was unable to promise. [page 6]

The recognition of this obvious moral obligation and a generous attempt to fulfill it, even to the point if need be of losing the life of the League might have resulted in the one line of action which would most quickly have saved it.

If the coal, the iron, the oil and above all the grain had been distributed under international control from the first day of the armistice, Europe might have escaped the starvation which dooms it [today]. The League could actually have governed by controlling these necessary things and would have laid the sane foundations of that type of government towards which the world is straining and in which it is so persistently experimenting.

Nor would action have been "materialistic," using the word as a term of reproach, more quickly than any other method would it heal the wounds of war "to feed thine enemy" is a fairly sure road towards forgiveness, to sit around the same table in order to discuss common problems with his accredited representatives would be to reach a higher type of idealistic conduct than that attained at Versailles itself even in the days when it claimed to be the worlds' center of idealism. The men there failed to understand that to perpetuate old economic antagonisms between the nations and even to create new ones was clearly fatal to any possible hope of a League of Nations.

But even then actual conditions drove them to a modification of their political arrangements. A Commission of Enquiry into Freedom of Communications and Transit called in Paris shortly after the armistice was continued by the League of Nations and by the Allied and Associated Powers. The commission, however, labors under various difficulties. All its decisions must be unanimous. Its conventions, moreover, must be ratified by the League of Nations, which means not only the Council and Secretariat of the League, but the Assembly. [page 7] And the first meeting of the Assembly, not held until 1921, postponed until then a conference "to plan ways and means of preventing any country from profiting by its geographical situation to hinder the free movement of international traffic." In the meantime the lack of adequate transit is almost as large a factor in the starvation of Europe as lack of production. But if the avowed object of the League had been to feed the world and if it had had any zeal for its task, it could never have submitted to such a cumbersome arrangement, lest millions of fellow beings starve to death.

Nothing is being done concerning the Customs Union which has so often been suggested for Europe. But the absurd tariff regulations which keep Hungarian grain and [Serbian] pork from starving Austria would not be tolerated a month if the object of the League were the prevention of starvation in which all the nations involved were perforce participating: nor would a blockade against Russia nor war in the Ukraine be allowed to keep the greatest wheat supply in the world out of the mouths of the hungry.

Much has been said during the war about primitive emotion and instinctive action, but certainly their use need not be reserved to purposes of destruction. After all the first friendly communication between tribe and tribe came through the need of food when one or the other was starving and too weak to fight, primitive human pity made the folk way which afterward developed into political relationships.

Why not open the gates and let these primitive emotions flood our devastated world. By all means let the beneficent tide be directed and canalized by the League of Nations which is after all the outgrowth of century old dreams.

The great stumbling block always in the way of its earlier [page 8] realization and the crux of its actual survival now, is the difficulty in interpreting it to the understanding of the common man, grounding it in his affections, appealing to his love for human kind. To such men, who after all compose the bulk of the citizens in every nation participating in the League, the abstract politics of it make little appeal [although] they would gladly contribute their utmost to feed the starving as the two and a half million French trades unionists regularly tax themselves for the children of Austria; or as the British Labor Party insists that the British foreign policy shall rest, "upon the humane basis, really caring for all mankind, including colored men, women and children;" or as the American Federation of Labor declares its readiness to "give a mighty service in a common effort for all human kind."

So far as the working man in any country has expressed himself, it is all in this direction.

Millions of earths humblest toilers whose lives are consumed in securing the daily needs of existence for themselves and their families, go stumbling towards the light of better international relations largely because "Man is constantly seeking a new and finer adjustment between his inner emotional demands and the practical arrangements of the world in which he lives." It is absurd for the advocates of the League to complain that it is difficult to endear their cause to "the people" when it is precisely the people who are most ready for an act of faith, to whom it seems most natural to feed the hungry. It may take years to popularize the principles of the League but citizens of the Christian nations have already received much religious instruction. "To do the will" on an international scale might result in that world wide religious revival, [page 9] which the war in spite of many predictions has as yet failed to bring. It would certainly establish the sort of League of which thousands of people dreamed when they hailed the President of the United States as the Savior of Europe. [Why] are its advocates so afraid to tap this reservoir of moral power which alone could adequately motive the great understanding?

There are many individual instances of a moral change resulting from a response to a genuine need. Tolstoy's religious conversion, changing the habits of a life time, came to him through his attempts to relieve the starvation in Russia during the famine in 1886.

Was it because of this experience that forever after, he voiced an inveterate distrust of abstract principles, whether stated in philosophic, patriotic, or religious terms; announced his firm belief that such slogans but lay the foundations for blind fanaticism, and are inimical to a life of reason. Tolstoy said in many forms that when we confound principles with people, it shows that we understand neither religion nor our fellow-men.