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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 11, No. 7. June 23rd, 1948

Personal Sacrifices Necessary for Peace

Personal Sacrifices Necessary for Peace

In his address to the Political Science Society the Consul for Switzerland, Mr. E. C. Theiler, spoke of Switzerland as an example to Europe and perhaps the world of how federalism can bring peace. Switzerland was born in the year 1291 when the free men of the Alpine valleys bordering Lake. Lucerne formulated the "Everlasting League." Unlike most ambitious pacts of this nature, this one lasted.

Federalism became necessary to Switzerland as soon as there was more than one language group, for conflicting race, religion and language makes centralised democratic government impossible. Each canton is autonomous in so far as its constitution does not conflict with the Federal Constitution, while within the canton the commune is independent in all local affairs. Each canton has its own system of government while its constitution is guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. There are no minority groups in Switzerland for any citizen may dwell in any commune, each of which is completely autonomous in all matters relating to racial origin, or religion. Persecution of any form is forbidden by the constitution. In 1798 Switzerland was forced to accept a revolutionary constitution which set up the "one and indivisible Helvetic Republic." But the idea of federalism was deeply ingrained in the Swiss character and in 1803 Napoleon was forced to restore a degree of autonomy to the cantons. Later by a constitutional referendum the people adopted the constitution of 1848 under which the old loose federation of states was transformed into a federal state with a national government.

Turning to Europe Mr, Theiler tried to explain how a federal system based on the Swiss pattern would be beneficial to European peace. Europe as everybody knows, is divided into two camps, both sides have the best intentions in the world and both desire world, peace, they therefore have much in common, but no one would think so.

The Alternatives

The trouble, said Mr. Theiler, is that we haven't progressed to the stage where we are prepared to make a personal sacrifice, even though only temporarily, in the general interest. Each nation must give up a little of its autonomy if all are to be welded peaceably together. The alternative is that some will lose all rights of self-government. It was not necessary to give up all rights, in fact, any attempt at a unitary world state would be to completely disregard the facts of history. It would first be necessary for the foreign policy of the federated states to be decided in common and then defence would have to be in the hands of the central body. This central authority must be given the power to implement its policy, by force if necessary. Apart from these matters of foreign policy and defence each state could remain completely autonomous.

The Two Together?

However, Federalism could not work in uniting nations with basically different economic systems Capitalism could live peaceably alongside Communism, but the two could not live together. Federalism can go far in bringing peace to the different groups and time will inevitably lead to mutual understanding and reform. If the nations will only have patience and talk things over, then a stage must be reached when one system will prove its superiority and a federation of all groups will bring a measure of peace to Europe