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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Emmanuel Macron's French election victory may change less than most expect

The centrist is not the first to succeed from outside the traditional parties in the Fifth Republic.

Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French presidential election, and will face Marine Le Pen in the run-off.

The numbers that matter: Emmanuel Macron 24 per cent, Le Pen 21 per cent, François Fillon 19.9 per cent, Jean Luc Mélenchon 19.9 per cent and Benoît Hamon 6.3 per cent.

According to the polls - which came within 0.9 per cent of the correct result in the first round - Macron will easily defeat Marine Le Pen in the second round.

The single transferable take that compares Macron to Hillary Clinton and Le Pen to Trump ignores a few things. Not least his programme, the different electoral system and the fact that Macron is popular - the most popular politician in France, in fact. Jean Luc Mélenchon declined to back a candidate in the second round and will poll his supporters on who his leftist bloc should back. But it's not comparable to the feud between Bernie Sanders and Clinton - which, in any case, was overwritten. Most Sanders supporters backed Clinton in November. The big story of that election was that the American mainstream right backed Donald Trump despite his manifold faults.

The French mainstream right is a very different beast. Fillon has already thrown his weight behind Macron, warning against the "violence" and "intolerance" of the National Front and the "economic chaos" its programme would inflict. And to the extent that it matters, Hamon has also endorsed his former party colleague, saying that there is a difference between a "political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

So, if he wins, has everything changed, changed utterly? That's the line in most of the papers this morning, but I'm not so sure. French politics has always been more fissiparous than elsewhere, with parties conjured up to facilitate runs for the Presidency, such as the Democratic Movement of perennial candidate, now Macron backer François Bayrou, and Mélenchon's own Left Party.

I'm dubious, too, about the idea that Macron is the first to succeed from outside the traditional centre-right and centre-left blocs in the history of the Fifth Republic. That honour surely goes to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a popular finance minister in a Gaullist administration, who ran on a independent centrist platform in 1974 - and won the presidency.

Giscard d'Estaing had no majority in the National Assembly and had to "cohabit" with his former colleagues on the Gaullist right. In the long run, far from upending the left-right pattern of French politics, he continued it. (Indeed, d'Estaing is now a member of the centre-right Republican Party.)

You don't have to look hard to see the parallels with Macron, a popular finance minister in a Socialist administration, running on an independent centrist platform and very likely to win, too.

France's underreported and under-polled legislative elections in June will give us an idea of the scale of the change and how lasting it may be. If, freed from the taint of Fillon's scandals, the French Republicans can win the legislative elections then talk of the "death of the traditional centre-right" is going to look very silly indeed.

Equally, while Hamon won the presidential nomination, the Socialist Party's legislative candidates are largely drawn from the party's right. If En Marche!, Macron's new party, can go from no seats at all to the largest group but are short of a majority their natural allies in getting through Macron's programme will be from the remains of the Socialists. Far from irrevocably changing the pattern of French politics, Macron's remarkable success may simply mark a period of transition in the life of the French Left.

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

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