The year 1934 will decide about the future of the League of Nations. Will it live or will it die? Nobody can answer that question. In all probability the League will not die, but it will not liveâ€”it will go on without strength and without much hope. It will live by inertia. Many people may think a life like that not worth while. They are mistaken. Certainly there is no greatness and no beauty in a life like that. But the League remains as a potentialityâ€”it can be reawakened to life; it will be there at least to be used if there will be the possibility or the courage to use it. And it will stand out as a symbol of a hope which animated the peoples in 1919, the hope of a better-ordered world, of less anarchy in international relations, of a growing tendency towards peaceful cooperation. This symbol may be today void of living energy but the hope for which it once stood is not yet dead, and therefore let the symbol go on and remind us of our hopes and dreams and illusions. Illusions are always followed by disillusionment if they spring from not facing squarely the facts of the situation and its implications, but many things which seemed a dream to us years ago, have turned into the reality of today or may become the reality of tomorrow.
Still in 1932 the League seemed strong. The disarmament conference was called together and many well-meaning people welcomed and hailed it as a serious start on the road to disarmament. Two important states had joined the League: Turkey, the leading Western Asiatic Mohammedan power, which had undergone an astonishing program of modernization, and Iraq, which by its admission had fulfilled the true meaning of one of the most important implications of the League Covenantâ€”the Mandate system and the liberation of formerly subject small nations. Germany and France seemed nearing an understanding, which promised to inaugurate a new era of pacifications. But in 1934 the picture seems changed; the advent of the Hitler government in Germany has reacted upon the position of France, Poland and the Little Entente, has drawn them more closely together, has fortified the unfortunate system of alliances and has made France more uncompromising than she was two years ago. Two great powers, Japan and Germany, have left the League of Nations. Italy threatens to follow them, so that only France and Great Britain remain as supporters of the League. The Mandate system is being vehemently attacked in Syria and Palestine and the Disarmament Conference seems as dead as the World Economic Conference.
There would be one way to save the League of Nations and to give it the possibility of a new and vigorous lifeâ€”the close cooperation of the United States and of the Soviet Union with the League. Both powers are today the potentially strongest and most coherent world powers, which by their geographical situations and vastness are practically unassailable and therefore above all danger. By their great influence they could act as a moderating influence in many questions. But for a dispassionate onlooker there seems no hope at present to induce the United States or the Soviet Union to join the League of Nations. There is no inducement to join a weak or decaying body, and neither in the United States nor in the Soviet Union is public opinion psychologically prepared for such a step. Thus one thing only remains: to keep the League of Nations going as well as it can without burdening it with any difficult task which would strain its feeble resources and to keep it for a not-very-distant future when it by circumstances will again become able to grow into the center of the world’s hope of peaceful cooperation.
JEWS AND UNDERDOGS
A number of people have been writing to The Nation letters of a kind about which Ralph D. Blumenfeld, in his department, “R. D. B. Speaks”, warned the readers of The Bulletin several months ago. This letter-writing brigade usually starts its letters with the information that they have just come from Germany and really there was nothing at all to complain about. Among the letters is one which appears to have been written by a Jew, in which a rather important problem is brought up. It is this: Can Jews expect the non-Jewish world to sympathize with the plight of Jews if they do not take every opportunity to speak up, when occasions arise, for other oppressed units? Why, he asks, did not the Jews protest Italian Fascism? Why don’t they do anything about the Negroes in the South? And Catholics have asked why Jews did not protest the Mexican government’s action against the Catholic Church. We venture the not-so-hazardous prediction that there are as many reasons in explanation of these neglects as there are reasons for reproaching the Jews for being interested in the plight of no under-dog but their own.