“We are far from living in a single world community,” writes Edward Shils, “but the rudiments of a world society do exist.” Among those rudiments, perhaps the most conspicuous, if least remarked, are the emerging views as to what kind of society it is. A measure of self-awareness has appeared, much as it did for smaller polities in earlier times. These assessments tend at the international level to be as diverse as those commonly encountered concerning national societies, or local ones. Some will think the society is good and getting better; others will see it as bad and getting worse. Some want change; some fear it. Where one sees justice, another sees wrong.
The notion of a world society is nothing new to Americans. It dominated the rhetoric of World War II, of the founding of the United Nations, of much of the cold war. It is now a received idea, and its impress may be measured by the success with which advocates have found audiences for issues defined in international terms: the world environmental problem; the world population problem; the world food problem. Not a generation ago, these were national issues at most.
Much of this internationalist rhetoric is based on things real enough. There is a world ecology; there is a world economy; and some measures important to individual countries can only be obtained through international accord. Thus the concept of interdependence has become perhaps the main element of the new consciousness of a world society. This is a valid basis on which to posit the existence of a society; it is almost a precondition of a society’s coming into being.
Yet societies rarely stop at the acknowledgment of the need for cooperation which is implied by the term interdependence. The image of a society as a family is a common one, and with reason, for in both cases the idea of cooperation is frequently supplemented or even supplanted by the idea of obligation. What does one member owe another? This is something new in international pronouncements. If one were to characterize the discomfiture and distress with which Americans responded to the events of the 29th General Assembly of the United Nations in 1974, some measure would have to be attributed to the discovery that a vast majority of the nations of the world feel there are claims which can be made on the wealth of individual nations that are both considerable and threatening—in any event threatening to countries such as the United States which regularly finds itself in a minority (often a minority of one or two or at most a half-dozen) in an assembly of 138 members.
The tyranny of the UN’s “new majority” has accordingly been deplored, and there has been much comment that whereas opposition to the United Nations was once a position of “conservatives” in the United States, it is increasingly one of “liberals” also. Yet while there have been some calls to boycott the General Assembly, or not to vote in it, there have been but few calls for withdrawal from the United Nations. It is almost as if American opinion now acknowledged that there was no escaping involvement in the emergent world society. All the more reason, then, for seeking to understand what has been going on.
Now, of course, a lot is going on, and no single element dominates. Yet it may be argued that what happened in the early 1970’s is that for the first time the world felt the impact of what for lack of a better term I shall call the British revolution. That is the revolution which began in 1947 with the granting by socialist Britain of independence to socialist India. In slow, then rapid, order the great empires of the world—with the single major exception of the Czarist empire—broke up into independent states; the original membership of the United Nations of 51 grew to 138. These new nations naturally varied in terms of size, population, and resources. But in one respect they hardly varied at all. To a quite astonishing degree they were ideologically uniform, having fashioned their polities in terms derived from the general corpus of British socialist opinion as it developed in the period roughly 1890-1950. The Englishmen and Irishmen, Scotsmen and Welsh, who created this body of doctrine and espoused it with such enterprise—nay, genius—thought they were making a social revolution in Britain. And they were. But the spread of their ideology to the furthest reaches of the globe, with its ascent to dominance in the highest national councils everywhere, gives to the British revolution the kind of worldwide significance which the American and French, and then the Russian, revolutions possessed in earlier times.1
From the perspective of their impact on others, the American and French revolutions can be treated as a single event. They were not of course identical in themselves, and profoundly important distinctions can be made between them. But these distinctions were little noted in the political rhetoric of the century that followed, or in the forms of government fashioned in the likeness of this rhetoric, or in the goals of governments so fashioned. Men sought a constitutional regime which disestablished ancient privilege, guaranteed liberties, and promoted the general welfare through what came to be known as liberal social policies. Liberalism was at first characterized by the opposition to state intervention in economic affairs, and later by the advocacy of such intervention, but the intervention in question was a fairly mild business, it being no liberal’s view that the state was an especially trustworthy servant of the citizen. The citizen, as liberals viewed the world, was a very important person, especially perhaps if he tended to clean linen.
The Russian revolution of 1917 brought into existence a regime even more dramatically different from its predecessors than had the liberal regimes of a century earlier been from theirs. Everything, it was understood, had changed. Those who would change everything, or who believed that, like it or not, everything was going to change, rallied to this rhetoric. As for the rest of the world, it came soon enough to know that a wholly extraordinary event had occurred, even that the future had occurred. For three decades, culminating in the triumph of Communist arms in China in 1948, this was quite the most vivid, and the most attended to, movement in the world.
The British revolution of the second quarter of the 20th century attracted no such attention. Everyone certainly recognized that new states were coming into existence out of former European, and indeed mostly British, colonies, but the tendency was to see them as candidates for incorporation into one or the other of the older revolutionary traditions then dominant elsewhere in the world. It was not generally perceived that they were in a sense already spoken for—that they came to independence with a preexisting, coherent, and surprisingly stable ideological base which, while related to both the earlier traditions, was distinct from both. This most likely accounts for the almost incurious initial reaction in what would soon be known as the First and Second Worlds. In the Republic of India the United States could see democracy; the Soviets could see socialism. In truth, a certain Hegelian synthesis had occurred. On the one hand, the Minimal State of the American revolution; in response, the Total State of the Russian revolution; in synthesis, the Welfare State of the British revolution.
Samuel H. Beer describes the doctrine of British socialism as follows:
. . . it is especially the socialist’s commitment to “fellowship” that fundamentally distinguishes his approach. . . . For private ownership he would substitute public ownership; for production for profit, production for use; for competition, cooperation. A cultural and ethical revolution would also take place, and motives that had aimed at individual benefit would now aim at common benefits. Industry, which had been governed by individual decisions within the competitive system, would be subject to collective and democratic control. . . . Government would consist in comprehensive and continuous planning and administration.
Two general points may be made about this British doctrine. First, it contained a suspicion of, almost a bias against, economic development which carried over into those parts of the world where British culture held sway. The fundamental assertion of the age of the Diamond Jubilee was that there was plenty of wealth to go ’round if only it were fairly distributed. No matter what more thoughtful socialist analysts might urge, redistribution, not production, remained central to the ethos of British socialism. Profit became synonymous with exploitation. That profit might be something conceptually elegant—least-cost production—made scarcely any impress. “Production for profit” became a formulation for all that was wrong in the old ways, and Tories half-agreed. (For it was the Liberals and the Radicals who were being repudiated by such doctrine, and it was the Liberal party that went under.) This, too, was passed on. When Sir Arthur Lewis in 1974 gave the Tata lectures in India and found himself pleading, as a socialist and as a man of the Third World, but also as an economist, that profit was not a concept public-sector enterprise could afford to ignore, no less a personage than the head of the Indian Planning Commission felt called upon to rebut him.
To be sure, much of this redistributionist bias was simply innocent. British socialists, for example, proved in office to know almost nothing about how actually to redistribute income, and British income has not been significantly redistributed. Coming to power just after World War II, the socialists appeared to think they had abolished wealth by imposing a top income-tax rate of nineteen shillings six pence in the twenty-shilling pound, which is to say confiscating the rich man’s pay envelope. Few seemed to note that capital gains remained exempt from income tax altogether, so that in large measure thereafter only those with property could acquire property: the very antithesis of the social condition socialism sought. (This detail perhaps did not escape the well-to-do of the developing nations when the prospect of socialism on the British model first appeared there.)
The second general point about socialist doctrine as it developed in Britain was that it was anti-American. More anti-American, surely, than it was ever anti-Soviet. The reasons for this are not that obscure. The British were not overmuch admiring of Americans in that era, nor we of them. In part their attitude began as aristocratical disdain. (An intimate of Pandit Nehru’s describes once asking India’s first Prime Minister why he was so anti-American. This was in 1961. Nehru’s first reaction was a rather huffy denial of any such predisposition, but he then became reflective and after a moment admitted that, yes, it was true, and that probably it all dated back to his days at Harrow. There was one American boy there at the time: filthy rich, and much too pushy.) But more importantly, of course, America was seen as quintessentially capitalist.
With the Russian revolution, and then especially with the world depression of the 1930’s and the onset of popular-front movements in Europe, a considerable number of British socialists, despite their party’s fundamental and central attachment to democratic processes, became supporters of the Soviet regime. Russia was the future. America was the past. With the coming of the cold war this attitude became institutionalized and almost compulsory on the British Left. The New Statesman, a journal which tended to follow Asian and African graduates after they had left Britain and returned home, became near Stalinist in its attachment to Soviet ways with the world and its pervasive antagonism to things American.
And yet the New Statesman was never Communist, and neither, save in small proportion, were its readers. They were British socialists, part of a movement of opinion which spread in the course of the first half of the 20th century to the whole of the British empire, a domain which covered one-quarter of the earth’s surface, and which an inspired cartographic convention had long ago decreed be colored pink. It was British civil servants who took the doctrine to the colonies. (How curious, in retrospect, are the agonizings of Harold Laski and others as to whether the civil service would carry out the policies of a socialist government. What more congenial task for persons whose status comes from the power and prestige of government? But in the Britain of that era it could be thought that class origin would somehow overcome occupational interest.)
What the civil service began, British education completed. Has there ever been a conversion as complete as that of the Malay, the Ibo, the Gujarati, the Jamaican, the Australian, the Cypriot, the Guyanan, the Yemenite, the Yoruban, the sabra, the felaheen to this distant creed? The London School of Economics, Shils notes, was often said to be the most important institution of higher education in Asia and Africa. In her autobiography, Beatrice Webb wrote that she and her husband felt “assured that with the School [LSE] as the teaching body, the Fabian Society as a propagandist organization, the LCC [London County Council] as object lesson in electoral success, our books as the only elaborate original work in economic fact and theory, no young man or woman who is anxious to study or to work in public affairs can fail to come under our influence.” For reasons that are understandable, this was true most particularly for young men and women coming from abroad in that long and incongruously optimistic intellectual age that began amid late Victorian plumpness and ended with the austerity of postwar Britain. In 1950 the conservative Michael Oakeshott succeeded to the Fabian Harold Laski’s chair in political theory at LSE and in a sense that party was over. But by then not Communists but Fabians could claim that the largest portion of the world’s population lived in regimes of their fashioning. Before very long, the arithmetical majority and the ideological coherence of those new nations brought them to dominance in the United Nations and, indeed, in any world forum characterized by universal membership.
But if the new nations absorbed ideas about others from the doctrines of British socialism, they also absorbed ideas about themselves. The master concept, of course, is that they had the right to independence. This idea goes back to the American revolution, and even beyond to the Glorious Revolution in 17th-century Britain, but British socialism readily incorporated and even appropriated it. As the 20th century wore on and the issue of independence arose with respect to these specific peoples and places, it was most often the socialists who became the principal political sponsors of independence. It was a Labour government which in 1947 granted independence to India and formally commenced the vast, peaceful revolution that followed. The Indian Congress party had been founded in 1883 by a British civil servant, Alan Octavian Hume, whose politics were essentially Liberal. But by the time of independence, it was a matter to be taken for granted that the Congress was socialist and that its leaders, Gandhi and then Nehru, were socialists too.
Two further concepts triangulate and fix the imported political culture of these new nations. The first is the belief—often, of course, justified—that they have been subject to economic exploitation, exactly as the working class is said in socialist theory to have been exploited under capitalism. The second is the belief—also, of course, often justified—that they have been subject to ethnic discrimination corresponding to class distinctions in industrial society. As with the belief in the right to independence, these concepts, which now seem wholly natural, rarely occur in nature. They are learned ideas, and they were learned by the new nations mostly where they mostly originated, in the intellectual and political circles of Britain of the late 19th and early 20th century. Gandhi greatly elucidated the moral dimensions of exploitation and discrimination, but he did so in the context of a worldwide political movement that was more than receptive to his ideas, a political movement of which he was a part. At root, the ideas of exploitation and discrimination represent a transfer to colonial populations of the fundamental socialist assertions with respect to the condition of the European working class, just as the idea of independence parallels the demand that the working class break out of bondage and rise to power.
Now it is possible to imagine a country, or collection of countries, with a background similar to that of the British colonies, attaining independence and then letting bygones be bygones. The Americans did that: our political culture did not suggest any alternative. International life was thought to operate in Wordsworth’s terms:
The good old rule
. . . The simple plan
That they should take, who have the power.
And they should keep who can.
So in their own terms might Marxists judge the aftermath of Marxist triumph: history was working its ineluctable way; there would be no point, no logic, in holding the past to account. Not so the heirs of the British revolution. British socialism is, was, and remains a highly moral creed. It is not a politics of revenge; it is too civil for that. But reparations? Yes: reparations. This idea was fundamental to the social hope of a movement which, it must ever be recalled, rested on the assumption that there existed vast stores of unethically accumulated wealth. On the edges of the movement there were those who saw the future not just in terms of redistribution, but of something ominously close to looting. In any event, the past was by no means to be judged over and done with. There were scores to be settled. Internally and internationally.
A final distinctive character of the British revolution concerns procedure. Wrongs are to be righted by legislation. The movement was fundamentally parliamentarian. The Labour party came to power through the ballot, and proceeded to change society by statute. This was dramatically so with respect to the empire. For the first time in the history of mankind a vast empire dismantled itself, piece by piece, of its own systematic accord. A third of the nations of the world today owe their existence to a statute of Westminister. What more profound experience could there be of the potency of parliamentary majorities in distant places, and of their enactments?
Plainly, not all the new nations of the postwar world were formerly British. There were French colonies. Belgian. Dutch. Portuguese. Political traditions in each case were different from the British. But only slightly different: viewed from Mars, London, Paris, and The Hague are not widely separated or disparate places. By the time of the granting of independence, all were democratic with a socialist intelligentsia and often as not a socialist government. With the exception of Algeria—which is marked by the exception—the former French and Dutch colonies came into being in very much the manner the British had laid down. For a prolonged initial period the former British possessions had pride of place in the ex-colonial world—they speak English at the UN, not American—and pretty much set the style of politics which has become steadily more conspicuous in international affairs.
Not everyone has noticed this. Indeed, there is scarcely yet a vocabulary in which to describe it. In part, this is because the event is recent; but also because it was incomplete. As with the liberal revolution which came out of America, and the Communist revolution which came out of Russia this socialist revolution coming mainly out of Britain carred only so much of the world in its initial period of expansion. The liberal revolution of America was not exactly a spent force by the mid-20th century, but (pace the Mekong Delta Development Plan) there was never any great prospect of its expanding to new territories. On the other hand, the heirs of the Russian revolution did capture China, the greatest of all the prizes, in 1948, and at least part of Indochina a bit later. But in the main the Communist revolution stopped right there, and the two older revolutions now hold sway within fairly well-defined boundaries. Since 1950 it has been not they but the heirs of the British revolution who have been expanding.
Almost the first international political act of the new states was to form the nonaligned bloc, distinguishing themselves—partially—from the two blocs into which the immediate postwar world had formed. From politics the emphasis shifted to economic affairs. In 1968 these countries, meeting at Algiers, formed the Group of 77 as a formal economic bloc. Their Joint Statement described the group as “comprising the vast majority of the human race”—and indeed it did. The B’s in the list of members gave a sense of the range of nations and peoples involved: Bahrain, Barbados, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burma, Burundi. And yet there was—now somewhat hidden—unity to the list. Of these eight countries, five were formerly British-governed or British-directed. At its second Ministerial Meeting in Lima in 1971, the group (now numbering 96) drew up an Action Program which stated, inter alia, that developing countries should
encourage and promote appropriate commodity action and, particularly, the protection of the interests of primary producers of the region through intensive consultations among producer countries in order to encourage appropriate policies, leading to the establishment of producers’ associations and understandings. . . .
This was represented in the press as a major gain for the black African states who carried the point over objections from Latin Americans accustomed to working out raw-material and commodity arrangements with the United States. But the idea was fundamentally a heritage of the British revolution, and if the black Africans took the lead in proclaiming it, there is no reason to think it was any less familiar to Arabs. They had all gone to the same schools. Was it not right for those who have only their labor to sell, or only the products of their soil, to organize to confront capital? Had they not been exploited?
How has the United States dealt with these new nations and their distinctive ideology? Clearly we have not dealt very successfully. This past year, in the 29th General Assembly, we were frequently reduced to a voting bloc which, with variations, consisted of ourselves, Chile, and the Dominican Republic. As this “historic session” closed, the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations declared: “The activities of the Soviet delegation at the session showed once again that the Soviet Union deeply understands and shares the aspirations of the Third World.” This was not Krishna Menon, but a balanced and considerate Asian diplomat. If no equivalent pronouncement on China comes immediately to hand, this may be because the Chinese feel free to identify themselves as members of the Third World. As such, at the end of 1974 they declared that the new majority had written a “brilliant chapter” during the twelve months previous, that it was “sweeping ahead full sail as the boat of imperialism [the United States] and hegemonism [the Soviet Union] founders.” “These days,” the Chinese statement continued, “the United Nations often takes on the appearance of an international court with the Third World pressing the charges and conducting the trial.” A statement to which many could subscribe. But no such statement could come from an American statesman, no such praise would be accorded American policy. Clearly at some level—we all but started the United Nations—there has been a massive failure of American diplomacy.
But why? Why has the United States dealt so unsuccessfully with these nations and their distinct ideology? A first thought is that we have not seen the ideology as distinctive. Not recognizing it, we have made no sustained effort to relate ourselves to it. The totalitarian states, from their point of view, did. They recognize ideologies. By 1971 it was clear enough that the Third World—a few exceptions here and there—was not going Communist. But it was nevertheless possible to encourage it in directions that veered very considerably from any tendency the bloc might have to establish fruitful relations with the West; and this was done. It was done, moreover, with the blind acquiescence and even agreement of the United States which kept endorsing principles for whose logical outcome it was wholly unprepared and with which it could never actually go along.
A relatively small but revealing example of this process may be seen in the development of the World Social Report, a document of the Economic and Social Council. The first volume, covering the year 1963, was directed almost exclusively to problems of the developing countries, and the United States took its advent as a promising event. The 1965 report, concentrating on “practical methods of promoting social change,” might have caused some to take note, but American officials were entirely unwary: this was, after all, a report designed to help the developing world. In actual fact, it was becoming a document based on the veritably totalitarian idea that social justice means social stability and that social stability means the absence of social protest. Thus by 1970, the Soviet Union—not much social protest there!—emerges as the very embodiment of the just state, while the United States is a nation in near turmoil from the injustices it wreaks upon the poor and the protests these injustices have provoked. And Western Europe hardly comes off any better.
What happened here was that a “Finlandized” Secretariat (the official in charge of preparing the document was indeed a Finn) found that the developing countries and the Communist countries had an easy common interest in portraying their own progress, justifying the effective suppression of dissent, and in the process deprecating and indicting the seeming progress of Western societies. It is easy enough to see that this would be in the interest of the Soviet bloc. (The Chinese did not participate in the debate.) But why the developing world? First, the developing nations could ally with the totalitarians in depicting social reality in this way, in part because so many, having edged toward authoritarian regimes, faced the same problems the Communists would have encountered with a liberal analysis of civil liberties. Secondly, the developing nations had an interest in deprecating the economic achievements of capitalism, since almost none of their own managed economies was doing well. To deplore, to deride, the social effects of affluence in the United States is scarcely a recent invention. For a generation the British Left has held the patent. Further, there is an almost automatic interest on the Left in delegitimating wealth—prior to redistributing it—much as the opposite interest exists on the Right.
Small wonder that officials could describe the Social Report as the most popular document in the UN series, a statement intended as more than faint praise. Yet it has been more representative than otherwise. There are hundreds like it, suffused with a neo-totalitarian, anti-American bias.
American protests at the 26th General Assembly have evidently influenced the most recent Social Report, submitted to the 29th, but here the significant fact is that this protest—entered at the very last moment, when the document was being presented for pro-forma approval—was the first of its kind, or one of the first. In fact the United States until then did not protest. To the contrary, the United States actively participated in preparing this sustained assault on American institutions. The 1970 Social Report had been three years in the making. During those three years it made its way through layers of bureaucracies, all manner of meetings. Americans were always present, and Americans always approved. This was, after all, a Third World document; it was to be treated with tolerance and understanding. Complacency of this order could only arise from the failure to perceive that a distinctive ideology was at work, and that skill and intelligence were required to deal with it successfully.
The blindness of American diplomacy to the process persists. Two large events occurred in 1971, and a series of smaller ones were set in motion. China entered the United Nations, an event the Third World representatives saw as a decisive shift of power to their camp. In that same year the Lima conference established the nonaligned as an economic bloc intent on producer cartels. Less noticed, but perhaps no less important in its implications, a distinctive radicalization began in what might as well be termed world social policy.
This radicalization was first clearly evidenced at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held at Stockholm in 1972, or more precisely at the 26th General Assembly, which was finally to authorize the conference. The conference was in considerable measure an American initiative, and while American negotiators were primarily concerned with ways to get the Russians to join (which in the end they did not), the Brazilians suddenly stormed onto the scene to denounce the whole enterprise as a conspiracy of the haves to keep the have-nots down and out. The argument was that the rich had got rich by polluting their environments and now proposed to stay that way by preventing anyone else from polluting theirs. This, among other things, would insure that the rich would continue their monopoly on the use of the raw materials of the poor. Thus was it asserted that matters originally put forward as soluble in the context of existing economic and political relations were nothing of the sort. To the contrary, they were symptomatic of economic and political exploitation and injustice which could only be resolved by the most profound transformation: to expropriate the expropriators.
At Stockholm itself, this quickly became the dominant theme—espoused by a dominant majority. “Are not poverty and need the greatest pollutors?” Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India asked. “There are grave misgivings,” she continued, “that the discussion of ecology may be designed to distract attention from the problems of war and poverty.” She was wrong in this. They were not so designed. But at Stockholm the nations who feared they might be took control of the agenda. The conference declared as its first principle:
Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality, and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality which permits a life of dignity and well being, and bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations. In this respect, policies promoting or perpetuating apartheid, racial segregation, discrimination, colonial and other forms of oppression and foreign domination stand condemned and must be eliminated.
The American delegates routinely voted for this resolution. It was, after all, language the new countries wanted. What wholly unwelcome meanings might be attached to “other forms of oppression and foreign domination” which stood “condemned” and had to be “eliminated” was a thought scarcely in keeping with the spirit of the occasion.
The Stockholm Conference had been turbulent. The United Nations World Population Conference, held nearly two years later, in August 1974, had an air of insurrection. This conference too was largely an American initiative, the culmination of years of State Department effort to put population on the agenda of world social policy. The Secretary General of the United Nations proclaimed the gathering would be “a turning point in the history of mankind.” The centerpiece was a Draft World Population Plan of Action, which in essence set 1985 as the year crude birth rates in developing countries would be reduced to 30 per thousand (as against an anticipated 34) and when “the necessary information and education about family planning and means to practice family planning” would be available “to all persons who so desire. . . .” There can be no doubt of the social change implicit in such a conference’s even meeting: in most industrialized countries, family planning has only just achieved the status of an accepted social value deserving of public support. Yet neither should there be any doubt that a disaster overtook the American position in the course of the conference, and that this disaster was wholly predictable.
To begin with, the conference was thought up by Americans to deal with a problem we consider that other people have. (In fairness, not long ago the United States itself was thought to have a problem of population size, while the provision of family-planning services is an issue of social equity as well as of population growth.) Specifically, it was considered a problem of the developing countries: countries, that is, of the British revolution who are animated by the liveliest sense that their troubles originate in capitalist and imperialist systems of which the United States all but offered itself as an exemplar. Further, the conference met in Bucharest, capital of a Communist country. At one level no great imagination would have been required to anticipate the outcome. President Nicolae Ceausescu opened the conference by declaring that “The division of the world into developed and underdeveloped countries is a result of historical evolution, and is a direct consequence of the imperialist, colonialist, and neo-colonialist policies of exploitation of many peoples.” He called for “a new international economic order” and condemned “a pessimistic outlook” on population growth.
But if this was to be expected, few could have anticipated the wild energy of the Chinese assault on the Western position. China has the strictest of all population-control programs. Yet the Chinese arrived in Rumania to assail with unprecedented fury and devastating zeal the very idea of population control as fundamentally subversive of the future of the Third World. The future, the Chinese proclaimed, is infinitely bright. Only the imperialists and the hegemonists could spoil it, and population control was to be their wrecking device. A theory of “consumerism” emerged: it was excessive consumption in the developed economies which was the true source of the problems of the underdeveloped nations and not the size of the latter’s population. None dared oppose the thesis. The Indians, who are thought to have a population problem, went to the conference rather disposed to endorse a Plan of Action. But they did nothing of the sort. Instead, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, who headed the Indian delegation, found himself denouncing “colonial denudation” of the East, and the “vulgar affluence” of the West. The scene grew orgiastic.
In the end, a doctrine emerged which is almost certainly more true than otherwise, namely that social and economic change is the fundamental determinant of fertility change, compared with which family planning as such has at most a residual role. There need be no difficulty with this assertion. The difficulty comes with the conclusion said to follow: that economic growth in the West should cease and the wealth of the world be redistributed. We are back to Keir Hardie, expropriating the expropriators. Not to produce wealth, but to redistribute it. As with the environment conference, the population conference turned into another occasion for reminding the West of its alleged crimes and unresolved obligations.
This tone attained to manic proportions in Population Tribune, an unofficial, American-financed parallel conference of a form that first appeared in Stockholm. Ritual recantation became the order of the day as one notable after another confessed to a class-bound past which had blinded him to the infinitely bright future. Most of the recanters were American, but it was Professor René Dumont of France who epitomized the argument in a statement, “Population and Cannibals,” which was subsequently given the full front page of Development Forum, an official, five-language, UN publication. Professor Dumont—blaming the “Plunderers of the Third World” for world conditions—“They . . . ‘under-pay’ for the rare raw materials of the Third World and then squander them”—put the case with some vivacity:
Eating little children. I have already had occasion to show that the rich white man, with his overconsumption of meat and his lack of generosity toward poor populations, acts like a true cannibal, albeit indirect. Last year, in overconsuming meat which wasted the cereals which could have saved them, we ate the little children of the Sahel, of Ethiopia, and of Bangladesh. And this year, we are continuing to do the same thing, with the same appetite.
Dr. Han Suyin, a sympathetic commentator on Chinese Communist affairs, summed up for others:
You cannot cut off any talk about population, about people, from economics and politics. You cannot put in a vacuum any talk about population and world resources without relation to the present as it exists. I admire people who can talk about a noble future where there will be an equal society and where resources will be controlled by all. But, forgive me for saying so, if this is to be done, then we have to, begin by sharing now everything and that would mean that a lot of people who have a lot of private property, for instance, should divest themselves immediately of it in favor of the poor. It means that at this very moment we should start to implement a very simple thing—something which we heard . . . at the United Nations at the sixth special session of the United Nations where the voice of the Third World—the majority of the world—at last formulated their demand for more equitable terms of trade, and for an end to exploitation, for an end to the real cause of poverty and backwardness, which is not population, but which is injustice and exploitation. The Third World has a word for it, it calls it imperialism and hegemony.
And the American delegation? The official view, flashed to diplomatic posts around the world, was as uncomplicated at the end as it had been at the outset: “ALL BASIC U.S. OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED AND U.S. ACCOMPLISHMENTS WERE MANY. . . . U.S. DELEGATION UNANIMOUSLY PLEASED WITH FINAL RESULT.”
The World Food Conference which followed in Rome in November was even more explicitly an American initiative, Yet as the American delegation somewhat sadly noted, the plenary forum was used to the fullest by LDC’s (Less Developed Countries) to excoriate the United States and other developed nations as responsible for the current food crisis and the generally depressed state of their part of the world, calling for “radical adjustment in the current economic order and, in effect, reparations from developed countries” to the less developed. Such negotiations as took place were somewhat more sober since something immediately of value—wheat—was at stake and obviously only the United States and a few such countries were prepared to part with any. Even so, by the time the conference was concluded, one of the great, and truly liberal, innovations of world social policy—the American-led assertion that the hungry of the world should be fed by transfers of resources—had been utterly deprecated. Thus the Indian Food Minister’s statement with respect to the needs of the developing countries:
It is obvious that the developed nations can be held responsible for their [the developing nations’] present plight. Developed nations, therefore, have a duty to help them. Whatever help is rendered to them now should not be regarded as charity but deferred compensation for what has been done to them in the past by the developed countries.
The UN General Assembly pursued this theme with notable persistence throughout 1974, commencing with a special session in the spring which dealt with the economic crises of the underdeveloped in just such terms. Occasioned as much as anything by the devastating impact of oil price increases, the special session dwelt on every conceivable abuse of economic power save that one. At the end of the regular autumn session, the General Assembly solemnly adopted a Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States which accords to each state the right freely to exercise full permanent sovereignty over its wealth and natural resources, to regulate and exercise authority over foreign investments, and to nationalize, expropriate, or transfer ownership of foreign property pretty much at will. The vote was 120 to 6—the United States, Belgium, Denmark, West Germany, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom. What was being asserted was a radical discontinuity with the original, essentially liberal vision of the United Nations as a regime of international law and practice which acknowledges all manner of claims, but claims that move in all directions. Now they moved in one direction only.
In general a rhetoric of expropriation became routine. At year’s end, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, opening the 56th Conference of the International Law Association meeting in New Delhi, declared:
Laws designed to protect the political or economic power of a few against the rights of the many, must . . . yield place to laws which enlarge the area of equality, and . . . law itself should be an ally and instrument of change.
She spoke a now-common language of resentment over population issues:
Is it not a new form of arrogance for affluent nations to regard the poorer nations as an improvident species whose numbers are a threat to their own standard of living?
She suggested a reversal of roles had taken place as between the new nations and the old:
An obligation rests on the haves to generate confidence among the have-nots. . . . A new approach to foreign investments is indicated, in which investments abroad are regarded more as a service to the recipient community than as an enterprise where profits and their repatriation must be secured at all cost.
Now there is nothing unfamiliar in this language:
only the setting is new. It is the language of British socialism applied to the international scene. American diplomacy has yet to recognize this fact and, failing to recognize it, has failed even to begin dealing intelligently with it.
But if the beginning of wisdom in dealing with the nations of the Third World is to recognize their essential ideological coherence, the next step is to recognize that there is every reason to welcome this ideology, and to welcome the coherence also. Because of the British revolution and its heritage, the prospect now is that the world will not go totalitarian. In the Christian sense, has there been such political “good news” in our time? But there is bad news also. The great darkness could yet consume us. The potential for absorption of these states into the totalitarian camp is there and will continue to be there. This is perhaps especially true where one-party states have been established, but even where multi-party democracy flourishes the tug of the “socialist countries,” to use the UN term, persists.
The outcome will almost certainly turn on whether or not these nations, individually and in groups, succeed in establishing sufficiently productive economies. If they do not, if instead they become permanently dependent on outside assistance, that assistance is likely more and more to come from the totalitarian nations, and with it the price of internal political influence from the totalitarian camp through the local pro-Moscow, or pro-Peking, Communist party. For everywhere there are such parties. They appear able to go on indefinitely in a dormant state, and can be awakened pretty much at will. India, with a population equal to that of the whole of Africa and South America combined, is the best current example. Parliamentary democracy is vigorous enough there, but economic incompetence on its part and diplomatic blunders on ours have led to an increasing dependence on Soviet support, which in the space of three years has brought about an open electoral alliance between the Congress party and the Moscow-oriented Communists, an alliance we would have thought worth fighting a war to prevent two decades ago, but which we scarcely notice today.
This alliance would not have come about save for the failure of the Indian economy to prosper and the success—typical—of the argument that the cure for the damage done by leftist policies is even more leftist policies, which in practice translates into dependence on the Soviets and alliances with their internal allies. And here is the nub of the bad news: for all the attractions of this variety of socialist politics, it has proved, in almost all its versions, almost the world over, to be a distinctly poor means of producing wealth. Sharing wealth—perhaps. But not producing wealth. Who, having read British political journals over the past quarter-century, would be surprised to find that during this period (1950-73) the United Kingdom’s share of the “Planetary Product” has been reduced from 5.8 to 3.1 per cent? Why then be surprised that those who have made British socialism their model have trouble taking off in the opposite direction? Yet even so, one must be surprised at the decline of economies such as those of Burma and Sri Lanka: immensely productive places not a generation ago. Sri Lanka, for example, having first got to the point where it was importing potatoes from Poland, has now got to the further point where it can no longer afford to do so. A recent survey of the Ceylonese economy in the Far Eastern Economic Review was entitled: “Conspiracy or Catastrophe?” For what else could explain such failure?
What else, that is, to those experiencing it (with all that implies for political instability)? The outsider can indulge a more relaxed view. The fault lies in ideas, not persons. Americans—Westerners—do not have any claim to superior wisdom on the subject of these economies. Starting in the 1950’s a large number of first-rate economists began working on theories of economic growth designed to get the LDC’s on a path of self-sustained growth. “To be perfectly brutal about it,” Jesse Burkhead recently stated, “it hasn’t worked.” And yet there is no need to stand mute. Two assertions may be reasonably put forth, of which the first is that to say these economies haven’t worked as well as hoped is not to say that none has worked at all. There has been growth. In the main, things are better than they were. For every Argentina—that “miracle” of economic non-growth—there is a Brazil. For Ghana, Nigeria. For Calcutta, Singapore. The second assertion is that relative failure is particularly to be encountered in economies most heavily influenced by that version of late Fabian economics which compounded the Edwardian view that there was plenty to go around if justly distributed with the 1930’s view that capitalism could never produce enough to go around regardless of distributive principles.2
Still, there are gains in the relative loss of income associated with the managed economies of the Third World which need to be appreciated. An Asian economist has said of his own country, plaintively yet not without a certain defiance: “We are socialists, so we do not believe in capitalism. We are democrats, so we do not believe in terror. What, then, is our alternative save one per cent a year?” There is a welfare state of sorts; there is protection of industrial labor; and in some countries, at least, there is freedom to protest.
But the most distinctive gain and the least noted is that in the course of its outward journey, the managed economy was transmuted from an instrument of economic rationality to an instrument of political rationality. It is sometimes difficult to recall, but early socialist theory expounded the greater efficiency of production for use rather than for capital, and put much stress on capitalist wastefulness. In practice, however, the real attraction of the managed economy has been the means it provides to collect enough political power at the center to maintain national unity—almost everywhere a chancy thing in these generally multi-ethnic states.
One must still conclude, however, that these political gains are purchased at the expense of even more conspicuous economic losses. India will serve for a final example. In the year of its independence, 1947, India produced 1.2 million tons of steel and Japan only 900,000 tons. A quarter-century later, in 1972, India produced 6.8 million tons and Japan 106.8. These outcomes are the result of decisions made by the ruling party of each nation, and only an innocent could continue to accept Indian protestations that the results were unexpected. The break in Indian growth came precisely in 1962 when the United States, which had been about to finance its largest aid project ever, a steel complex at Bokharo in Eastern India, insisted that it be managed privately. India insisted on a public-sector plant, for which read a plant that would do what the Prime Minister of India wanted done. In the manner of the Aswan Dam (and with as much political impact), the Russians stepped in to finance the public-sector plant. By 1974 this plant had yet to produce sheet steel. For the period 1962-72 Indian steel production grew by a bare 1.8 per cent, while Japanese grew 13.4 per cent.
There is no serious way to deny that India has in a very real sense desired this outcome, just as there is no way to deny that high living standards in the modern world are associated with relatively free market economies and with liberalist international trade policies. Granted that much economic policy does not have high living standards as its true objective, but is rather concerned with political stability, and granted that such a concern may be wholly legitimate in a new nation—in any event it is not anyone else’s business—it nevertheless remains the case that the relative economic failure accompanying political success in regimes such as that of India sooner or later begins to undermine that very success. Promises are made and political stability, especially in the more democratic regimes, requires some measure of performance. When it is not forthcoming, regimes change. They become less democratic. They become less independent.
Neither of these developments can be welcomed by the United States. The United States in the past may have cared about the course of political events in these nations, but only in the most abstract terms. (Consider the casualness with which we armed Pakistan and incurred the bitter and enduring hostility of India, the second most populous nation in the world.) But India has now exploded a nuclear device. That may well prove the most important event of the turbulent year 1974. Other Third World nations are likely to follow. Hence political stability in the Third World acquires a meaning it simply has never in the past had for American strategic thinking, as well as our general view of world politics.
What then is to be done? We are witnessing the emergence of a world order dominated arithmetically by the countries of the Third World. This order is already much too developed for the United States or any other nation to think of opting out. It can’t be done. One may become a delinquent in this nascent world society. An outcast in it. But one remains “in” it. There is no escape from a definition of nationhood which derives primarily from the new international reality. Nor does this reality respond much to the kind of painfully impotent threats which are sometimes heard of America’s “pulling out.” Anyone who doubts that Dubai can pay for UNESCO, knows little of UNESCO, less of what the United States pays, and nothing whatever of Dubai.
In any event, matters of this sort aside, world society and world organization have evolved to the point where palpable interests are disposed in international forums to a degree without precedent. Witness, as an instance, the decisions of the World Court allocating the oil fields of the North Sea among the various littoral states in distinctly weighted (but no doubt proper) manner. Witness the current negotiations at the Law of the Sea Conference. Two-thirds of the world is covered by the sea, and the United Nations claims the seabed. That seabed, especially in the region around Hawaii, is rich in so-called “manganese nodules”—concentrations of ore which American technology is now able to exploit, or will be sooner than anyone else. At this moment we have, arguably, complete and perfect freedom to commence industrial use of the high seas. This freedom is being challenged, however, and almost certainly some form of international regime is about to be established. It can be a regime that permits American technology to go forward on some kind of license-and-royalties basis. Or it can assert exclusive “internationalized” rights to exploitation in an international public corporation. The stakes are considerable. They are enormous.
And then, of course, there remains the overriding interest, a true international interest, in arms control, and here true international government has emerged in a most impressive manner. If we were to ask who is the most important international official, a persuasive case could be made for choosing the Inspector General of the International Atomic Energy Authority, the man who supervises the safeguard agreements of the world’s atomic reactors. Few would know the name of this unobtrusive Swiss chemist; few, perhaps, need to. But more than a few do need to know that the post is there and that its viability derives ultimately from the international system of which it is a part. For the moment, American security derives primarily from our own armaments, and our strategic agreements with the Soviet Union and a few other powers. But the international regime of arms control is already important and certain to become more so.
If, that is, it does not go down in the general wreckage of the world system embodied now in the United Nations. But assuming that the new majority will not destroy the regime through actions that drive nations like the United States away, is it not reasonable to anticipate a quasi-parliamentary situation at the international level—the General Assembly and a dozen such forums—in which a nominally radical majority sets about legislating its presumed advantage in a world which has just come into its hands? The qualification “quasi-parliamentary” is necessary, for in fact the pronouncements of these assemblies have but limited force. So did the pronouncements of the Continental Congress. They are not on that ground to be ignored. What then does the United States do?
The United States goes into opposition. This is our circumstance. We are a minority. We are outvoted. This is neither an unprecedented nor an intolerable situation. The question is what do we make of it. So far we have made little—nothing—of what is in fact an opportunity. We go about dazed that the world has changed. We toy with the idea of stopping it and getting off. We rebound with the thought that if only we are more reasonable perhaps “they” will be. (Almost to the end, dominant opinion in the U.S. Mission to the United Nations was that the United States could not vote against the “have-nots” by opposing the Charter on the Rights and Duties of States—all rights for the Group of 77 and no duties.) But “they” do not grow reasonable. Instead, we grow unreasonable. A sterile enterprise which awaits total redefinition.
Going into opposition requires first of all that we recognize that there is a distinctive ideology at work in the Third World, and that it has a distinctive history and logic. To repeat the point once again, we have not done this, tending to see these new political cultures in our own image, or in that of the totalitarians, with a steady shift in the general perception from the former to the latter. But once we perceive the coherence in the majority, we will be in a position to reach for a certain coherence of opposition.
Three central issues commend themselves as points of systematic attack: first, the condition of international liberalism; second, the world economy; third, the state of political and civil liberties and of the general welfare. The rudiments of these arguments need only be sketched.
It is the peculiar function of “radical” political demands, such as those most recently heard in the international forums, that they bring about an exceptional deprecation of the achievements of liberal processes. Even when the radicalism is ultimately rejected, this is rarely from a sense that established processes do better and promise more. American liberalism experienced this deprecation in the 1960’s; international liberalism is undergoing it in the 1970’s. But the truth is that international liberalism and its processes have enormous recent achievements to their credit. It is time for the United States to start saying so.
One example is the multinational corporation which, combining modern management with liberal trade policies, is arguably the most creative international institution of the 20th century. A less controversial example is the World Health Organization. In 1966 it set out to abolish smallpox, and by the time this article is read, the job will more than likely have been successfully completed—in very significant measure with the techniques and participation of American epidemiologists. While not many Americans have been getting smallpox of late, the United States has been spending $140 million a year to keep it that way. Savings in that proportion and more will immediately follow. Here, as in a very long list, a liberal world policy has made national sense.
We should resist the temptation to designate agreeable policies as liberal merely on grounds of agreeableness. There are harder criteria. Liberal policies are limited in their undertakings, concrete in their means, representative in their mode of adoption, and definable in terms of results. These are surely the techniques appropriate to a still tentative, still emergent world society. It is time for the United States, as the new society’s loyal opposition, to say this directly, loudly, forcefully.
The economic argument—which will appear inconsistent only to those who have never been much in politics—is that the world economy is not nearly bad enough to justify the measures proposed by the majority, and yet is much worse than it would otherwise be in consequence of measures the majority has already taken. The first half of this formulation will require a considerable shift in the government mind, and possibly even some movement in American elite opinion also, for we have become great producers and distributors of crisis. The world environment crisis, the world population crisis, the world food crisis are in the main American discoveries—or inventions, opinions differ. Yet the simple and direct fact is that any crisis the United States takes to an international forum in the foreseeable future will be decided to the disadvantage of the United States. (Let us hope arms control is an exception.) Ergo: skepticism, challenge.
The world economy is the most inviting case for skepticism, although it will be difficult to persuade many Americans of this during an American recession, and although the rise in oil prices is now creating a crisis in the Third World which is neither of American contrivance nor of American discovery nor of American invention. But until the dislocations caused by OPEC, things were simply not as bad as they were typically portrayed. Things were better than they had been. Almost everywhere. In many places things were very good indeed. Sir Arthur Lewis summed up the evidence admirably:
We have now had nearly three decades of rapid economic growth. . . . Output per head has been growing in the developed world twice as fast as at any time within the preceding century. In the LDC world, output per head is not growing as fast as in the developed world, but is growing faster than the developed world used to grow.
The data can be quite startling. In 1973, as Sir Arthur was speaking, the “Planetary Product,” as estimated by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the Department of State, grew at a real rate of 6.8 per cent, an astonishing figure. The Third World product expanded by 5.75 per cent, no less astonishing.
Simultaneously it is to be asserted that these economies do less well than they ought: that the difference is of their own making and no one else’s, and no claim on anyone else arises in consequence. This will be hard for us to do, but it is time we did it. It is time we commenced citing men such as Jagdish N. Bhagwati, Professor of Economics at MIT, an Indian by birth, who stated in the Lal Bahadur Shastri lectures in India in 1973:
In the 1950’s our economic programs were considered by the progressive and democratic opinion abroad to be a model of what other developing countries might aspire to and emulate. Today, many of us spend our time trying desperately to convince others that somehow all the success stories elsewhere are special cases and that our performance is not as unsatisfactory as it appears. And yet, we must confront the fact that, in the ultimate analysis, despite our socialist patter and our planning efforts, we have managed to show neither rapid growth nor significant reduction of income inequality and poverty.
It is time we asserted, with Sir Arthur—a socialist, a man of the Third World—that economic growth is governed not by Western or American conspiracies, but by its own laws and that it “is not an egalitarian process. It is bound to be more vigorous in some professions, or sectors, or geographical regions than in others, and even to cause some impoverishment.”
A commentator in The Statesman, Calcutta’s century-old and most prestigious journal, recently warned:
It would be unwise for policy planners in the developing world to dismiss too easily . . . the basic premise of a society that worships success: if you are poor, you have only yourself to blame. Development is a matter of hard work and discipline. So if you are not developing fast, it is not because the rules of the game are stacked against you or that structural changes are never easy to bring about, but because you are lazy and indisciplined. The general disenchantment with economic aid flows from this. It is difficult for Americans to understand why such substantial flows of food and money have made so little impact.
Well, the time may have come when it is necessary for Americans to say, “Yes, it is difficult to understand that.” Not least because some Third World economies have done so very well. For if Calcutta has the lowest urban standard of living in the world, Singapore has in some ways the highest. It is time we asserted that inequalities in the world may be not so much a matter of condition as of performance. The Brazilians do well. The Israelis. The Nigerians. The Taiwanese. It is a good argument. Far better, surely, than the repeated plea of nolo contendere which we have entered, standing accused and abased before the Tribune of the People.
Cataloguing the economic failings of other countries is something to be done out of necessity, not choice. But speaking for political and civil liberty, and doing so in detail and in concrete particulars, is something that can surely be undertaken by Americans with enthusiasm and zeal. Surely it is not beyond us, when the next Social Report comes along, to ask about conditions and events in many countries of the Third World of which almost everyone knows, but few have thought it politic to speak. The AFL-CIO does it. Freedom House does it. Amnesty International does it. American socialists do it. The time has come for the spokesmen of the United States to do it too.
It is time, that is, that the American spokesman came to be feared in international forums for the truths he might tell. Mexico, which has grown increasingly competitive in Third World affairs, which took the lead in the Declaration of the Economic Rights and Duties, preaches international equity. Yet it preaches domestic equity also. It could not without some cost expose itself to a repeated inquiry as to the extent of equity within its own borders. Nor would a good many other Third World countries welcome a sustained comparison between the liberties they provide their own peoples with those which are common and taken for granted in the United States.
For the United States to go into opposition in this manner not only requires a recognition of the ideology of the Third World, but a reversal of roles for American spokesmen as well. As if to compensate for its aggressiveness about what might be termed Security Council affairs, the United States has chosen at the UN to be extraordinarily passive, even compliant, about the endless goings-on in the Commissions and Divisions and Centers and suchlike elusive enterprises associated with the Economic and Social Council. Men and women were assigned to these missions, but have rarely been given much support, or even much scrutiny. Rather, the scrutiny has been of just the wrong kind, ever alert to deviation from the formula platitudes of UN debate, and hopelessly insensitive to the history of political struggles of the 20th century.
In Washington, three decades of habit and incentive have created patterns of appeasement so profound as to seem wholly normal. Delegations to international conferences return from devastating defeats proclaiming victory. In truth, these have never been thought especially important. Taking seriously a Third World speech about, say, the right of commodity producers to market their products in concert and to raise their prices in the process, would have been the mark of the quixotic or the failed. To consider the intellectual antecedents of such propositions would not have occurred to anyone, for they were not thought to have any.
And yet how interesting the results might be. The results, say, of observing the occasion of an Algerian’s assuming the Presidency of the General Assembly with an informed tribute to the career of the liberator Ben Bella, still presumedly rotting in an Algerian prison cell. The results of a discourse on the disparities between the (1973) per-capita GNP in Abu Dhabi of $43,000 and that of its neighbor, the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen, with one-thousandth that. Again, this need not be a uniformly scornful exercise; anything but. The Third World has more than its share of attractive regimes, and some attractive indeed—Costa Rica, Gambia, Malaysia, to name but three. Half the people in the world who live under a regime of civil liberties live in India. The point is to differentiate, and to turn their own standards against regimes for the moment too much preoccupied with causing difficulties for others, mainly the United States. If this has been in order for some time, the oil price increase—devastating to the development hopes of half-a-hundred Asian and African and Latin American countries—makes it urgent and opportune in a way it has never been.
Such a reversal of roles would be painful to American spokesmen, but it could be liberating also. It is past time we ceased to apologize for an imperfect democracy. Find its equal. It is time we grew out of our initial—not a little condescending—supersensitivity about the feelings of new nations. It is time we commenced to treat them as equals, a respect to which they are entitled.
The case is formidable that there is nothing the Third World needs less—especially now that the United States has so much withdrawn—than to lapse into a kind of cargo cult designed to bring about our return through imprecation and threat rather than the usual invocations. The Third World has achieved independence, and it needs to assert it in a genuine manner. The condition of the developing countries is in significant measure an imported condition. In the main a distinctive body of European ideas has taken hold, not everywhere in the same measure. Sri Lanka will be more cerebrate in its socialism than will, say, Iraq, Brazil more given to actual economic expansion than Syria or Egypt, Algeria considerably less libertarian than Nigeria. Still, there is a recognizable pattern to the economic and political postures of these countries, of which the central reality is that their anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist ideologies are in fact themselves the last stage of colonialism. These are imported ideas every bit as much as the capitalist and imperialist ideas to which they are opposed. The sooner they are succeeded by truly indigenous ideas, the better off all the former colonies will be, the United States included.
The Third World must feed itself, for example, and this will not be done by suggesting that Americans eat too much. It is one thing to stress what is consumed in the West, another to note what is produced there. In 1973, 17.8 per cent of the world’s population produced 64.3 per cent of its product—and not just from taking advantage of cheap raw materials.
In the same way, the Third World has almost everywhere a constitutional heritage of individual liberty, and it needs to be as jealous of that heritage as of the heritage of national independence. It should be a source of renown that India, for one, has done that, and of infamy that so many others have not.
Not long ago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, speaking of the case of a Soviet dissident who had been detained in a mental hospital, asked whether world opinion would ever permit South Africa to detain a black African leader in this fashion. Answering his own question, he said, “The storm of worldwide rage would have long ago swept the roof from that prison!” His point is very like the one Stephen Spender came to in the course of the Spanish Civil War. Visiting Spain, he encountered atrocities of the Right, and atrocities of the Left. But only those of the Right were being written about, and it came to him, as he later put it, that if one did not care about every murdered child indiscriminately, one did not really care about children being murdered at all. Very well. But nothing we finally know about the countries of the Third World (only in part the object of the Solzhenitsyn charge) warrants the conclusion that they will be concerned only for wrongdoing that directly affects them. Ethnic solidarity is not the automatic enemy of civil liberties. It has been the foundation of many. If there are any who can blow off the roof of any such prison—then all credit to them. If you can be against the wrongful imprisonment of a person anywhere, then you can be against wrongful imprisonment everywhere.
It is in precisely such terms that we can seek common cause with the new nations: granted that they, no more than we, are likely ever wholly to live up to either of our protestations. Yet there exists the strongest possibility of an accommodating relationship at the level of principle—a possibility that does not exist at all with the totalitarian powers as they are now constituted. To contemplate an oppositional role to the Soviet bloc, or the Chinese, in, say, the General Assembly would be self-deceptive. One may negotiate there as between separate political communities, but to participate as in a single community—even in opposition—would simply not be possible. We can, however, have such a relation with most Third World nations. And we can do so while speaking for and in the name of political and civil liberty.
And equality, what of it? Here an act of historical faith is required: what is the record? The record was stated most succinctly by an Israeli socialist who told William F. Buckley, Jr. that those nations which have put liberty ahead of equality have ended up doing better by equality than those with the reverse priority. This is so, and being so, it is something to be shouted to the heavens in the years now upon us. This is our case. We are of the liberty party, and it might surprise us what energies might be released were we to unfurl those banners.
In the spring of 1973, in his first address as director-designate of the London School of Economics—where Harold Laski once molded the minds of so many future leaders of the “new majority”—Ralf Dahrendorf sounded this theme. The equality party, he said, has had its day. The liberty party’s time has come once more. It is a time to be shared with the new nations, and those not so new, shaped from the old European empires, and especially the British—and is the United States not one such?—whose heritage this is also. To have halted the great totalitarian advance only to be undone by the politics of resentment and the economics of envy would be a poor outcome to the promise of a world society. At the level of world affairs we have learned to deal with Communism. Our task is now to learn to deal with socialism. It will not be less difficult a task. It ought to be a profoundly more pleasant one.
1 The term British revolution is open to objection as seeming to exclude the influence of continental socialism on the new nations, and indeed a good case could be made for calling the phenomenon I am trying to describe the revolution of the Second International. But the term British can be justified by the fact that of the 87 states to have joined the UN since its founding, more than half—47—had been part of the British empire. Even apart from the empire, British culture was in the first half of this century incomparably the most influential in the world, and that culture was increasingly suffused with socialist ideas and attitudes. I anticipate and hope for a rigorous critique of the arguments of this paper, but I also hope it will not be too much distracted by the difficulties of finding a concise term to describe what was on the whole a concise phenomenon; the development of socialist doctrine and the formation of socialist parties in Western Europe at this time. I should also note that the political ideology in the new states of the Third World of which I will be speaking was best described by the late George Lichtheim as “national socialism.” This term has, of course, acquired an altogether unacceptable connotation.
2 This latter idea is very much alive. On leaving my post as United States Ambassador to India, I gave a press conference in which inter alia I touched upon the failure of India to achieve a productive economy. The National Herald, the Nehru family newspaper, commented in an editorial: “Mr. Moynihan may be justified in some of his criticism of the state of the Indian economy, but what he is trying to sell is the capitalist system which can only impoverish India’s millions further.”