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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 8 June 27, 1945

Peace in our Time? — Lipson Lectures IRC

Peace in our Time?

Lipson Lectures IRC

The IRC recently invited Professor Lipson to give his views on "World Security and Peace Settlement." The end of the war in Europe has given us the opportunity to speculate and theories on this most imminent and vital problem. The difficulties which have been met and overcome only with compromise at the San Francisco Conference and the failures of the League covenant in the past have shown us that the Way will not be easy, and clear thinking and a complete knowledge of the situation is essential.

We have therefore reprinted Professor Lipson's address at length, in the hope that students will appreciate their individual responsibilities.

"First I should like to make clear," said Professor Lipson, "that during my address this evening I must assume that you are with me in desiring three things. Firstly, the development of a powerful international organisation. Secondly the creation of a super-state with authority over and above any other divisions, national or otherwise. Thirdly, a centralised international organisation and force, and the discouragement of narrow nationalism."

There must eventually be an international organisation at one centre to wield power over separate states, and the relationship of nation states to the organisation would be similar to that of local bodies to a national government. There could still be civil wars between member states, the possibility most certainly will be reduced. But all this will take a long time to build up. The last two wars are part of the transition period and we must try to get through the rest of it without any wars. We must realise that we cannot get everything at once but be perfectionists in the ultimate goal.

League of Nations

The League was the greatest experiment that human beings have yet made in the development of an international organisation. It was defective, however, in that it was not a genuine international government or a superstate but was merely an instrument of cooperation. The nations were still independent and the League had only slight powers over its members. Several attempts were made to stop the loopholes in the covenant (the Kellog Pact was one), but they failed. The League membership suffered when the USA failed to join at the very beginning and the Soviet Union was boycotted by the other powers and only joined in 1934 after Germany had flounced out.

The New Plan

Dumbarton is the basis of the present San Francisco discussion but there is very little reliable information at present and we do not know the new charter in detail.

The new organisation is still not an international government but an instrument for co-operation—it is not a superstate and can therefore be criticised from that angle. In Chapter 2, Section 1 of the Dumbarton Oaks Plan the legalistic term "sovereign equality" is still employed. This is a legal formula and not a political reality; for example, Luxembourg and Panama are separate states and under these terms have the same right to the same vote as other states which are very much larger and more powerful.

The Veto

A difference in the new proposals as compared with the League is that the five main powers have special powers and responsibilities including the power of veto. This is a great step forward from the League in which there were fifty states, all with the power of veto, but ideally and as a long term policy, we must regret the retention of the veto.

While sympathising with the desire of the small powers to have a say in their fate, we must realise, as citizens of a small power, that security depends on the major powers under the present system. The power of any one of the big five to veto the action of the whole organisation has, however, the weakness that, ff one of these powers started a war, the security organisation could not act because the aggressor power could veto any proposed action.

Regional Groupings

There are two schools of thought on this subject; one is that there must be only one central organisation, and that any sub-groupings would tend to break the unity of the central organisation and might cause wars between regions. The other is based on the argument that it is close neighbours who go to war, and that, if there was reasonable solidarity, differences could be amicably discussed and overcome. There is a good case for the latter idea but the regional groupings must not be developed at the expense of the central organisation.

Peace Settlement

The peace settlement concerns the relationships between the principal powers of the world outside and inside the security organisation; the fixing of boundaries, reparations, and the treatment of Germany, Italy and Japan.

A starting assumption is that of the big five the two with the most binding ties are Britain and USA. We can be sure that the two will act together on vital issues because of long term common interests.


If Britain and the USA can be genuinely friendly with Russia, and vice versa, a great deal can be accomplished—if not, then there is a distinct possibility of the destruction of civilisation. We must understand the Russian point of view, and they must understand ours. This is not particularly easy because there is still prejudice on both sides.

The anti-Russian propaganda circulating in pre-war days was inaccurate and willfully distorted, as were many of the books about the Russian system. Stalin is a man with a long memory and is a product of his earlier undercover days. He still remembers that Britain, USA and France sent forces against the Soviet Union in 1919-1920. proposals for collective security from 1935-1938 were turned down by reactionary countries and he cannot be sure that the old fears and prejudices had vanished. He is prepared to play power politics if we are; and if there was a division in Europe between East and West, he is strong enough to oppose us. Russian power in Europe is in the left-wing movements and she would be foolish not to play it against us if we give any backing to the right We have been seeing too much lately of Churchill the aristocrat, and not so much of the truly great national war leader he has proved himself to be. His action in Greece was his greatest blunder so far. Russia on the other hand, is too secretive and too suspicious, so it is difficult for foreign diplomats and correspondents to get access to the facts. This is a relic from the old days when secrecy may have been necessary.

The Marxian interpretation of the class struggle has great reality in Eastern Europe generally. The division between the rich and the poor is appalling and our type of democracy cannot be immediately introduced there. If we support the conservative interests (small wealthy minorities) we are asking Russia to interfere on behalf of the oppressed majorities of working people in these countries.


Pre-war Poland in 1939 was a fascist state without genuinely free elections. There was too big a gulf between rich and poor, and anti-semitism was almost as bad as in Germany. In 1938 the Polish Government joined Hitler in the rape of Czechoslovakia. The London Government had no rightful claim to rule Poland. In the areas of pre-war Poland that are to be handed to Russia, only a minority of the population are Polish. The White Russians, Ukrainians and Jews will most probably be better off under Russian leadership. It would be fatal for all if we allow the Polish issue to divide the three big powers.

A Hard Peace for Germany

The Germans are a dangerous and powerful, courageous and tenacious people. At the beginning of the war most people tried to draw a distinction between Nazis and Germans—there are still some good Germans, but it is to be feared that there is a small minority. There can be no peace while Germany remains powerful. The Nazi movement, the military class, and the industrialists must be destroyed and not permitted to go underground. We must be ruthless in dealing with war criminals, and the list must be long for the sake of our future safety. After this purge and the re-education of the people, more generous treatment may be meted out. If the best qualities of the people can be mobilised for good, then a new Germany can play an honourable part in the world organisation.

Professor Lipson concluded his address by briefly considering the effects of colour relations between the West and East, particularly as regards its effect on China and India.' "The draft charter provides the framework and machinery for peace. But no framework can endure unless it is built by, and brings with it, a spirit of loyalty."

—Victory Loan

Victory Loan gained by our College efforts to the extent of £673, of which £500 represents an allocation by the Exec. of Stud. Ass. Fund B. These comparatively poor results were largely due to the lateness of the campaign, which allowed many students to make their contribution to the loan through other channels.

The committee wish to extend their thanks to the many willing helpers who gave their time to make the loan a success, as well as to those students who contributed to the loan.—M.C.F.