19 April 1952: Leonard Woolf asks, is the UN still-born?

From our correspondence.

19 April 1952

SIR,-Mr Pollak's letter about my review and Uno shows me that I cannot make myself intelligible about anything to anyone. The whole point of what I wrote was that the machinery of the League and of Uno was adequate for maintaining peace and preventing war, but that unless Governments were willing to use the machinery for that purpose the machinery would fail.

The League failed because Mussolini and Hitler were not prepared to keep the peace, and the French and British Governments were not prepared to use the machinery of the League to prevent war. Uno from the start has been used by the Soviet Union as a weapon in the cold war, not as an intrument of peace. This is why I was accurate in saying that, as an intrument of peace, Uno was born dead.

I have spent a good deal of my life writing books which tried to explain why international government through organisations like the League or Uno is necessary. Mr Pollak personifies Uno and accuses me of "contempt" for this personification. I have no contempt for Uno, which is a piece of political machinery - I have contempt only for those who will not use the machinery for its purpose, namely the prevention of war - and perhaps just a shade for those who deify or personify Leagues, Unos, and other bits of political machinery and think it treason to do anything but sing hallelujah before their decayed or decaying altars.

Leonard Woolf,
Lewes, Sussex.

The first Security Council of the United Nations Organisation in New York, March 1946. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty.

Leonard Woolf (1880-1969) was a political theorist, author and civil servant. He was involved with the New Statesman from its earliest days, and advised Kingsley Martin regularly during his editorship.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

The world shared a stunned silence when news broke that Boris Johnson would be the new Foreign Secretary. Johnson, who once referred to black people as “piccaninnies” and more recently accused the half-Kenyan President of the United States of only commenting on the EU referendum because of bitterness about colonialism, will now be Britain’s representative on the world stage.

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In giving BoJo the Foreign Office, then, May hands him the photo opportunities he craves. Meanwhile, the man with real power in international affairs will be David Davis, who as Brexit minister has the far more daunting task of renegotiating Britain’s trade deals.