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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When Donald Trump talks, remember that Donald Trump almost always lies

Anyone getting excited about a trade deal between the United States and the United Kingdom should pay more attention to what Trump does, not what he says. 

Celebrations all round at the Times, which has bagged the first British newspaper interview with President-Elect Donald Trump.

Here are the headlines: he’s said that the EU has become a “vehicle for Germany”, that Nato is “obsolete” as it hasn’t focused on the big issue of the time (tackling Islamic terrorism), and that he expects that other countries will join the United Kingdom in leaving the European Union.

But what will trigger celebrations outside of the News Building is that Trump has this to say about a US-UK trade deal: his administration will ““work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly”. Time for champagne at Downing Street?

When reading or listening to an interview with Donald Trump, don’t forget that this is the man who has lied about, among other things, who really paid for gifts to charity on Celebrity Apprentice, being named Michigan’s Man of the Year in 2011, and making Mexico pay for a border wall between it and the United States. So take everything he promises with an ocean’s worth of salt, and instead look at what he does.   

Remember that in the same interview, the President-Elect threatened to hit BMW with sanctions over its decision to put a factory in Mexico, not the United States. More importantly, look at the people he is appointing to fill key trade posts: they are not free traders or anything like it. Anyone waiting for a Trump-backed trade deal that is “good for the UK” will wait a long time.

And as chess champion turned Putin-critic-in-chief Garry Kasparov notes on Twitter, it’s worth noting that Trump’s remarks on foreign affairs are near-identical to Putin’s. The idea that Nato’s traditional purpose is obsolete and that the focus should be on Islamic terrorism, meanwhile, will come as a shock to the Baltic states, and indeed, to the 650 British soldiers who have been sent to Estonia and Poland as part of a Nato deployment to deter Russian aggression against those countries.

All in all, I wouldn’t start declaring the new President is good news for the UK just yet.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.