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THE new international body which is known for convenience as UNESCO is a product of the widespread belief that only to the degree that there is a world community will world law be practicable and a world political organization be effective. It is the instrument devised to help build that community by working directly to mold men's ideas. But in addressing itself to that apparently beneficent task, it finds -- perhaps a little to its surprise -- that it is dealing with some of the most explosive political issues now confronting statesmen and people.
The first General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (to give it its full name) was held in Paris in November and December of last year and was attended by delegates of the 44 member states. It selected four major, immediate objectives: 1, rehabilitation of shattered cultural and educational centers; 2, reduction of illiteracy; 3, revision of textbooks; and 4, removal of barriers to world communications and extension of the use of the "mass media." It also adopted a budget of $6,000,000 for the first year, elected a Director-General to serve a two-year term (an English scholar, Julian Huxley), located its permanent headquarters in Paris and chose Mexico City as the site of the 1947 General Conference. By agreement with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, it is officially a specialized agency of the United Nations, under Articles 57 and 63 of the Charter. And in the United States, a National Commission to supply a propulsive force in its work in this country has been formed by act of Congress. The new agency is a going concern.
Very little of the evidence which would permit a realistic judgment of its program and possibilities is yet in, however. The Paris program is, in general, put in terms only of recommendations for study and report by the Director-General and his staff, and by various committees. But the importance of its problems and the part that will be played by public opinion in crystallizing its program, demand an effort to identify the elements of its structure and objectives which may help or hamper the realization of its promise.
There are two threads to follow in exploring the terrain which is its special province. The first is that there are two kinds of world agency tied together in it. UNESCO is designed to carry out the ideas of two dissimilar groups within each nation: professional educators, and specialists in mass communications. Though words can readily be found to obliterate the difference between them -- both "in the last analysis" can be said to be concerned with education -- the fact is that men whose work is done in a classroom, and men whose work is done in, say, a newspaper office, engage in operations of so different a nature as, for practical purposes, to give each a different objective. UNESCO includes both, and thus has two functions and two kinds of practical objectives, to be attained by dissimilar methods. They are by no means rigidly divided and they frequently overlap, but it is useful to make a distinction between them.
The first rôle of the new organization is the relatively noncontroversial one of acting as a clearing-house, particularly in regard to the projects of educators. As outlined in UNESCO's constitution, it may be described more or less as an extension of the rôle of the old International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations. A project for an exchange of student fellowships, which might be expressed in bilateral agreements between states, is an example of activities of this sort.
The second rôle is new, undefined, challenging and dangerous. The door is opened for it in UNESCO because it leads to the heart of the complex forces which represent the hope of these postwar years, as well as their dangers. It is the rôle which has been well suggested by Messers. White and Leigh in the title of a book -- "Peoples Speaking to Peoples."[i] It is the one-world idea, particularly vivid in the imaginations of Americans and heralded by the new technical devices which can be described soberly enough as introducing changes in communication comparable in importance to those effected five centuries ago by the invention of movable type. As part of this second function, the new agency has the task of promoting the use of the mass media in order to induce the greatest possible degree of understanding among the men and women of the world.
Though numerous activities in this category would be implemented by agreements between states for which UNESCO would act as clearing house, they obviously also imply a different type of international action, distinguished by its tendency to disregard the formal divisions of states and to cut across national boundaries. The proposal for a global network to be operated by the new agency is an example. The degree to which activities of this second kind shall be pursued, the content of the ideas to be disseminated and the terms of union which can make fruitful the interaction of the two groups of specialists, roughly define the first question in regard to the new organization.
UNESCO's second major problem, and great paradox, can be put in a few sentences. The U.S.S.R. absented itself from the General Conference at Paris. But it was generally accepted that the U.S.S.R. made its views known through a Jugoslav observer at the conference; and that spokesman turned inside out the premise upon which UNESCO is founded, namely, that the free flow of ideas among men is a primary ideal. The depth of the gulf that separates Communist and "western" views of free speech, already very plain, was suddenly accentuated. The question is, can the gulf be bridged? In attempting to bridge it, may not UNESCO cut the world more sharply into two communities?
In the interwar years, the International Institute of Intellectual Coöperation did useful work as a clearing house for projects designed to establish closer relationships among professional people. Up to 1938, 36 bilateral "intellectual agreements" were signed under its auspices, some of them covering such political questions as elimination of "offensive" passages from textbooks, though the majority were restricted to arrangements for exchanges of educational personnel and facilities, and so on. The leading spirits of the Institute were devoted internationalists; but the Institute's program for international coöperation tended to exhort the saved. The impact of the organization upon the world outside did not widen as the years passed. Of course, in the last half of that grim decade, the League of Nations itself was simply playing out its hand; and as its strength ebbed, so did the vigor of its subsidiary activities.
But if it was Hitler who gave the League its death blow, it was Hitler who, in left-handed fashion, made certain that the task of intellectual coöperation would be resumed with new strength and conviction at the end of the Second World War. Hitler paid the intellectuals of Europe a fine compliment: he recognized them as his primary enemies. He and Goebbels saw clearly that teachers, scientists, men of letters -- "intellectuals" or "professional men," whichever label one prefers -- first had to be exterminated in the conquered nations before the New Order could become a political possibility. The intellectuals of Europe went underground; and when those who lived finally emerged, it turned out, often enough, that they were the political leaders of their countries. That new morale among professional men, and the clearer understanding of the political power inherent in cultural affairs, account for no little of the drive and confidence that have brought UNESCO into being.
The constitution of this specialized agency is an interesting document. It reflects the great political trend of the postwar years, and reflects it in just about the proportions that it seems to assume in the thoughts of men and in the events of the day. The constitution is explicitly an arrangement among sovereign states. And it is something more. Vaguely, ambiguously, yet with unmistakable intent and with the stirrings of power, it reaches for an ordering of individuals to individuals within a world organization in which national governments are secondary. This, perhaps, is why Henri Bonnet has called UNESCO "the spearhead of the United Nations." How the arrangements foreshadowed in this agency may develop -- which ones will develop, and which will atrophy and be discarded -- no one can say. But there is a significant beginning. The opening and closing phrases of the Preamble are typical:
The Governments of the States parties to the constitution declare . . . that a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.
"Governments of States" is writ large; and so is "mankind." Between stretches a vast area to be given meaning.
A few places in which the interplay of the two approaches to world organization is especially visible may be noted. The General Conference is composed of the "representatives of the States Members of the Organisation" (Article IV, Section 1); but it may invite representatives of international organizations -- that is to say, individuals -- to attend specified sessions of the Conference as observers (Article IV, Section 13). The General Conference of sovereign-state delegates (with "individuals" sometimes there and sometimes not) is the formal seat of power in the agency; it determines policies, takes decisions on programs drawn up by the Executive Board, and appoints the Director-General. This is orthodox procedure. But from this body to the Executive Board and the Secretariat -- the next instruments of power -- is a good-sized jump. The Executive Board of 18 is wholly a board of individuals -- "persons competent in the arts, the humanities, the sciences, education and the diffusion of ideas and qualified by their experience and capacity to fulfill the administrative and executive duties of the Board." (Article V, Section 2). It is to be formed with regard to diversity of cultures and "a balanced geographical distribution;" but hierarchies of Powers and the familiar devices to maintain them are conspicuously unprovided for. Vote is by majority, save when international conventions, e.g., a copyright convention, are to be submitted to states, when a two-thirds majority is required. Article V, Section 11 spells out the idea: "The members of the Executive Board shall exercise the powers delegated to them by the General Conference on behalf of the Conference as a whole and not as representatives of their respective Governments."
The Secretariat is wholly non-governmental. This follows United Nations precedent; but the Director-General of this agency is perhaps more explicitly endowed with power than is his prototype, the Secretary-General: he is succinctly instructed to "formulate proposals for appropriate action by the Conference and the Board" (Article VI, Section 3). Whether he or the Executive Board will be the power behind the throne remains to be seen. The real leverage of UNESCO in whatever it does must be the power of public opinion; and the two requirements for the effective application of that force are expertness and unremitting attention to the business in hand -- virtues which the Director-General and his staff are designed to embody. At Paris, however, the term of the first Director-General was, by informal agreement, limited to two years instead of the six prescribed by the Constitution, and it was specified that all appointments by the Director-General must be approved by the Executive Board.
In any event, much of what UNESCO does, and no matter whether it be done through individual states, or through individual men and women, will be done by an appeal to the mind of the community. The agency is enjoined by its member states from "intervening in matters which are essentially within their domestic jurisdiction." But the General Conference can summon international conferences on education, on the sciences and humanities and (a broad phrase) on "the dissemination of knowledge" (Article IV, Section 3). It can submit recommendations and international conventions to governments. Every member state is obligated to submit to it reports "relating to educational, scientific and cultural life and institutions" (Article VIII). It is instructed to "advise the United Nations Organisation on the educational, scientific and cultural aspects of matters of concern to the latter in accordance with the terms and procedure agreed upon between the appropriate authorities of the two Organisations" (Article IV, Section 5). All this is the apparatus for molding public opinion. To aid in summoning that twentieth-century genie, UNESCO has also the instrument of the National Commissions, the formation of which is recommended to the member states by the constitution but not made compulsory. (In the United States, the Commission is composed of representatives of 60 organizations, and 40 individuals appointed by the Secretary of State.) Given strong leadership, wise selection of issues and skilled presentation, these Commissions could conceivably exert much influence.
And then, there are the portentous "mass media," which UNESCO is so emphatically instructed to cultivate. The purpose of the organization, Article I, Section 2 declares, is to "collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image."
For some of the concrete possibilities inherent in all this machinery we must turn to the program recommended at Paris. Of the four main projects which may be taken to represent UNESCO's purpose and functions as now conceived, those relating to reconstruction, a literacy campaign and textbook revision seem almost exclusively "clearing house" activities. In regard to the first, the conference was careful to make plain that UNESCO is not a relief agency. It may purchase some scientific apparatus with its own funds, for institutions especially in need of it, but its efforts will be directed primarily to surveying the needs of rehabilitation of schools, museums and libraries, coördinating the work of other agencies, publicizing the campaign and raising funds. (The sum of $100,000,000 is named as the goal.) It is interesting to note that there is a door opening into uncharted fields, in this sphere of UNESCO's work as in most others. Article IX, Section 3 of the constitution authorizes the Director-General (with the approval of the Executive Board) to accept money directly from private institutions and persons -- a provision which might lead to unorthodox developments, though hardly in connection with rebuilding libraries and museums.
The campaign to make available a minimum degree of education to all the people of the world -- about half of whom can now neither read nor write -- is a long-term project, to be initiated by a survey by the staff of the agency in collaboration with experts from all countries. It is based not only on the obligation of more prosperous nations toward less favored peoples, but on the obvious advantages to all nations of establishing the educational prerequisites for economic and social health everywhere in the modern world. The program envisages education for adults in such fields as agriculture and public health, as well as instruction for young and old in the rudiments of reading and writing. This should be one of UNESCO's great projects.
The project for the world-wide revision of textbooks is more controversial. It calls for a clearing house for the collection of information on the subject, including copies of school books most commonly used, the formulation of a code of ethics for writers of textbooks, and a world-wide conference which would focus attention on the subject. The effort would presumably be implemented by bilateral agreements between states. UNESCO will, moreover, "call to the attention of the member nations any misuse of the facilities of teaching which it considers dangerous to the peace."
Under the Casares Resolution, adopted by the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1925 and later revised, the International Committee on Intellectual Coöperation made revision of school books (meaning principally history books) one of its major efforts. The Resolution called upon governments to assure themselves "that the textbooks in use in their countries contained no passages prejudicial to mutual understanding between nations." Though a number of agreements were signed, the Institute itself admitted in 1933 that little had been accomplished:
It is surprising to note how much activity this question has called forth, but a closer examination of the material leads unfortunately to the conclusion that in many cases the resolutions taken have remained merely platonic and that the programs of action set up have not often been carried into practice.[ii]
Indeed, the gap between ideal and reality in this field was wide. It is symptomatic that the Free State of Brunswick decreed after the war that "Readers inciting to hatred between nations . . . are not to be used in the classroom," and that this decree was cancelled by the Minister of Education of Brunswick in 1930, who instructed that "a knowledge of history must develop the will to national self-assertion." [iii] It was only in France, where teachers enjoyed a particular freedom in the choice of school books, that the effort to discontinue the use of books which glorified war and offended other nations made appreciable headway.
One cannot help remembering the sorrowful, and nearly universal, feeling of 1940 that France was suffering, not from an excess of nationalism, but from a lack of patriotism. To what degree the revision of textbooks was responsible for the lethargy in France is hard to tell, but the chances are that in France as elsewhere, the practical effect was very small. The thesis that wars begin in the minds of men and that hence ideas implanted in childhood and youth set wars afoot is met with frequently in the literature of the interwar movement to revise school books, and it seems to have been carried over into UNESCO somewhat uncritically. No doubt history can furnish examples which substantiate it, though instances drawn from the two World Wars would seem to suggest that the school books determined less than is often supposed. (One notes that in 1917 and again in 1941 Americans fought beside their history-book enemy.)
And however that may be, the nature of the words and themes that give offense to other nations has changed so greatly in recent years that the effort to avoid offensive textbook passages seems quite impracticable now. The question is not merely how the story of the Second World War could be told without wounding national esteem, in Germany for example. The very nature of a slight to national esteem has changed. As Isaiah Bowman says: "The twentieth century attaches fighting importance to social ideas." Belittle a foreign nation's military grandeur and you may elicit pleased agreement; disparage its system of coöperative consumer credit agencies and you draw blood. Are history books to refrain from discussions, in concrete terms, of capitalism, Socialism, Communism, individualism, the relation of trade unions to governments, state planning, free enterprise, civil liberties, the characteristics of a secret police and so on and so on? It is on these subjects that offensive things are said these days. That there can be textbooks full of raucous nationalism that were better not used is surely true, but the practical problem of improving the writing of history would hardly seem to yield to frontal attack. The laws of good writing are hard to codify; and the extreme examples of bad writing in this field -- anything comparable to the Japanese version of the divinity of the Emperor, for example -- would, if raised, be a political issue of the most serious kind -- a Security Council matter for the United Nations, of which the textbook aspect would quite certainly be but one minor part. UNESCO's effort to bring the scholars of the world into closer relationships, and to facilitate the opportunity for mutual criticism and mutual approval which has so much to do with first-rate work, will surely be encouraged by all men of good will. But it may be questioned whether an effort to revise the textbooks of the world will increase the prestige of the agency.
The fourth major project in its program -- the elimination of barriers to world communications and the extension of the use of the mass media -- lies in the new, broad category of "peoples speaking to peoples." The distinction between this and the "clearing house" rôle is only a rough one, but it is serviceable. Inherent in every action to be taken by UNESCO is the possibility of appealing to world opinion to achieve the desired ends. But though that explosive element is present to some degree in all the plans of the new agency, it is concentrated in the proposals for action in the field of communications. The question of a global network, by which the people of all the world would be addressed at one signal from a world center, is merely one of the controversial issues which focus upon this part of the program. Even were it removed, there would remain the insistent problems of the commercial and cultural use of the new devices of telecommunication (a word which takes its full significance if it is remembered that the first two syllables mean "far away"); the troublesome question of interpenetration of cultures; and above all the issue of freedom of information, which so separates the western lands from Russia.
Lest UNESCO be too easily charged with temerity in tackling problems of this size, it should perhaps be pointed out that it was the prominence of these factors of international relations which created this specialized agency, not the agency which originated the problems. The range and power of the new inventions which have made the problems so real are little appreciated; indeed some of the new devices may as yet be merely in the stage of Hargreaves' spinning-jenny of 1770. Voice broadcasting by radio, which can penetrate every corner of the world, is only one of them. To this familiar development must be added such devices as wireless transmission of facsimile pages, in color if desired, and "multiple address" newscasting, which permits wireless transmission of words by dot and dash at the rate of 800 a minute (as compared with 40 to 60 by cable). The implications of such a technique are staggering. In due course, perhaps under some system of charges according to ability to pay as now governs the rates of American press associations, newspapers anywhere in the world should be able to obtain hundreds of thousands of words of foreign news daily [iv] -- a flow of information indeed! The reader of any newspaper in the world, or the editor (if he could not print it all) would have at his disposal the equivalent, say, of the foreign news service of The New York Times; or perhaps of Pravda; or perhaps of the Chicago Tribune. And then there are the developments of the process of offset printing (through the aid of photography) by which the type pages of a magazine -- perhaps thousands of pounds of metal -- are in effect transformed to a thin packet of papers, to be carried in a plane and put on presses halfway around the globe. A periodical can now be printed simultaneously in all the cities of the world. What will such developments do to national boundaries? Are the sovereign states the Luddites which will attempt to break the machines?
How deeply American commercial and political interests are involved need not be underscored. It was at the behest of Americans that the London Conference of 1945 adopted the resolution instructing the Preparatory Commission to give special attention to UNESCO's work in the field of mass communications. But it is equally apparent that this technological revolution already touches the interests of every nation in the world.
The report of the Program Committee, adopted at Paris, proposes: 1, the eventual establishment of a world-wide network for radio broadcasting and reception, and an immediate study of the question with a view to submitting a practicable plan to the next General Conference; 2, a survey of the press, the film and the whole range of telecommunications and postal services, to eliminate inadequacies and encourage needed expansion; 3, the establishment of an international radio forum and a world university of the air, by which (within the framework of existing facilities) subjects of international interest can be discussed; and 4, "what might be called negative or curative proposals for the removal of barriers obstructing the flow of communication." The report of the Sub-Committee had recommended, in regard to this "curative" aspect of the program, that the agency deal with copyright restrictions, with the cost of cable and wireless communication, and "with all restrictions on the flow of information and ideas across international boundaries, and with the suppression and distortion of information and ideas by any influence."
In a final comment on the program, the Chairman of the Program Committee emphasized the two strands of thought which, as we have seen, interweave everywhere in the constitution and the program of the agency. Without the collaboration of the member nations, UNESCO can do nothing, he concluded; yet at the same time, he pointed out, these are "proposals advanced for action by the peoples of the world."
The Russian comment came quickly. Vladislav Ribnikar, a Jugoslav observer, addressed the General Conference at the first session to explain why his government had not ratified the constitution of UNESCO; and it was unmistakable that his remarks were to be taken as the view of the U.S.S.R. on the program and possibilities of the new agency. The speech was not printed verbatim in the United States, and there was some tendency here to dismiss it merely as a Soviet effort, fortunately repelled, to inject discord into the Conference proceedings.
There was much more to it than that. Mr. Ribnikar, using as his text an address and a pamphlet by Dr. Huxley discussing the nature of a "world philosophy" -- evolutionary humanism -- that would serve to draw "east" and "west" together, began by urging that the organization base its work on "the general rules of the Constitution" [v] -- rather than on the "more or less abstract principles" of the Preamble. He took exception, in particular, to the concepts of the Preamble that "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed;" and to the clause of the Preamble which reads: "That ignorance of each other's ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of the suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have too often broken into war." Mr. Ribnikar felt that this was an inaccurate picture of the causes of war between nations.
He then quoted Article 1, Section 3, of the constitution -- "With a view to preserving the independence, integrity and fruitful diversity of the cultures and educational systems of the States Members of this Organisation, the Organisation is prohibited from intervening in matters which are essentially within their domestic jurisdiction" -- and declared that "numerous proposals concerning the UNESCO programme submitted by the Preparatory Commission" show a "persistent tendency which is absolutely contrary to the view of the Constitution." According to the program, he declared, UNESCO's "own philosophy labelled 'World Scientific Humanism' . . . will be forcibly disseminated and imposed upon the peoples of the world." He particularly protested against the rejection of materialist thought in this "official philosophy," pointing out that dialectical materialism "is recognized and its general outlook adopted by a great country, the Soviet Union," and that to deny materialism its place among the philosophies of the world would be to deny much of the scientific tradition of which such countries as England and France are proud. "Let us not forget," he said, "that the campaign against dialectical materialism was one of the main features of the Fascist régimes; they called upon the peoples to fight the Soviet Union in the name of European civilization. It is impossible for UNESCO to take a similar attitude, while declaring itself in favor of international coöperation and the 'free flow of ideas.'"
Obviously, there were major and minor themes here. (There had never been a pretence by Dr. Huxley that "evolutionary humanism" had been adopted as an official philosophy of UNESCO; and there was no chance that it was going to be. Dr. Huxley, himself a biologist, must have been astonished to find himself charged with denying the importance of the scientific tradition in western thought, and of undertaking a campaign against dialectical materialism. He subsequently assured Mr. Ribnikar that he had had no such intention -- and the Jugoslav spokesman was happy to know what, of course, he knew already.) In his speech, Mr. Ribnikar then elaborated what, one must suppose, was his major theme -- UNESCO's efforts in the field of mass communication. He first defined the agency's proper function. He did not imply, he said, that philosophic materialism should be imposed on all members of its organization. "International, cultural coöperation means fruitful competition on the creative plane, a competition between cultures, from which should emerge the stabilization of values corresponding to the interests of the United Nations and of mankind." This is cryptic terminolgy; in view of his own comment on the abstract character of UNESCO's Preamble, the Conference might have hoped for something more concrete. But one assumes that, at any rate, Mr. Ribnikar was saying that Russia would approve of some international cultural activities through an international agency. They must, however, be activities that would not "alter or correct" the "educational systems and the general conditions necessary to a speedy development of national cultures" -- in nations which, as Jugoslavia, for example, have achieved a cultural rebirth: "This is why we are against any attempt to create any kind of cultural centralization."
UNESCO must, therefore, Mr. Ribnikar continued, not only "recommend peace and coöperation with the means available," but must "oppose any attempt to provoke suspicion and hatred between the peoples and to prepare public opinion in certain countries for such provocation. . . . It should not only reprove them, but take active measures to suppress them." The telling passage of the statement followed. The proposals of the Preparatory Commission were not merely failing to oppose Fascist and pro-Fascist elements which still exist in many countries, he said:
On the contrary, a whole series of proposals by the Preparatory Commission, mis-using the principle of "free flow of ideas," provides for the penetration of the masses by a new propaganda devised by the adversaries of peace and the instigators of new wars. [The italicization is added.]
There was a final stroke to drive the message home: "The absence of a Soviet delegation to the General Conference shows that such work cannot succeed. It seems unnecessary to point out that no cultural coöperation between the United Nations is conceivable without the collaboration of the Soviet Union, just as it would be difficult to imagine the United Nations without the Soviet Union." In short, he served notice that the U.S.S.R. is implacably opposed to the mass-communications activities of UNESCO.
This clarifies the situation. There is no reason to suppose that Soviet Russia does not mean what she says. Nor has she raised an issue which will disappear merely if it is not discussed. The initial response to such a difference of opinion can only be an effort of reëxamination by member nations of UNESCO and their peoples -- above all by Americans, who are the prime movers in the proposals to which Russia objects -- of the course of action which has been taken. There are no limits to the field of such an inquiry. But are there, perhaps, several fixed points which may help orient the thinking which must be done?
First it seems relevant to underscore the fact that the success of UNESCO, or its failure in any project which raises important issues, can greatly -- perhaps even decisively -- affect the whole United Nations organization. UNESCO is tied to the Economic and Social Council by the same type of loose agreement which binds the other specialized agencies. Subsidiary agreements will make special arrangements in regard to the budget and the mass media. Though neither has been announced, it is expected that the Secretary-General will be given the right to advise UNESCO about its budget, but that the agency will itself determine its budget. UNESCO will probably be free to follow its own line in regard to mass communications also, though it is clearly realized that these activities interlock with those of other agencies -- with the Committee on Human Rights for example, in regard to questions of civil liberties. A Radio Committee has been set up on which each of these specialized agencies is represented. Though there are manifest advantages in a loose arrangement, the desirable long-term trend would seem to be toward a tightening of the relationships of all the specialized agencies with the parent organization.
A second point of reference is that Russia seems willing to participate in certain activities -- those presumably of the "clearing house" kind -- and that it is to the advantage of everyone that she should do so. The necessity of making such projects efficient and practical is obvious -- as is the possibility of overextension of efforts. As George N. Shuster has remarked: "The number of internationalists with aces up their sleeves is legion." But at the same time, there is no mistake which the leaders of the agency seem so determined to avoid as this possibility of overextension. The extreme modesty of UNESCO's first budget was a manifestation of the awareness of the danger.
The Jugoslav spokesman's comments on the sweeping propositions in the Preamble seem relevant and useful; though, in fact, as Mr. Ribnikar sagaciously observed, it is unlikely that these abstract propositions will be decisive in determining UNESCO's future; the only important exception, perhaps, would be if "moral solidarity" were interpreted as "religious solidarity," or as a call for a grouping of Christian peoples -- though the possibilities of strife inherent in this also seem generally perceived.[vi] That there can be wide variety within a community can be taken as self-evident by anyone who is not anxious to find a pretext for a dispute. We have a great instance: there was a world community with moral solidarity at Nuremberg.
The third fixed point is that, in Soviet eyes, the future of UNESCO depends on what is done in the field of mass communications. It is helpful to be told this so plainly. Should the "western" answer, then, be to drop those activities, to put them in an organization by themselves, or to go ahead with them -- and if the latter, then on what terms?
To drop the mass communications activities would be for UNESCO, and for the United Nations, to turn their backs on one of the greatest, potentially most useful and most dangerous centers of force in the modern world. It would mean the renunciation of a world mission for the agency and its parent body. Since the forces of the mass media are so unmistakably both international and supernational in character, an attempt to harness and use them is an unavoidable function of a world agency which pretends to concern itself with the forces which make for war and peace.
There has, however, been some evidence of a temptation among different groups of specialists to play with the thought of putting these mass-media activities in a separate organization. The Committee of Consultants to the Department of State, in its report of September 1946, insisted that if the mass-media work were relegated to an inferior position, it should be withdrawn from UNESCO and a new body which was exclusively concerned with it should be set up.[vii] The committee could hardly have considered the implications of its suggestion. Nothing could so easily put this whole question of the breaking down of barriers to the use of the mass media into terms of the United States versus the world, as would such a course. It is the United States which is asking new arrangements, new privileges, new fields of activity for its mass communication industries all around the globe. A world agency mainly representing the objectives of one nation would be unfortunate indeed.
As an example of the contrary tendency, we may note a protest by Kenneth Lindsay, in the London Spectator [viii] that "matters of technique such as the film, the radio and the Press have been elevated into positions of undue importance at the expense of education and teaching," and that this has spoiled the purity of the original concept. But fortunately, a division of UNESCO into two separate agencies is not seriously being considered. The amalgamation of the work of the two groups of specialists is essential if the work of either is to be effective, as the experience of the International Institute makes plain. Here, indeed, Americans can make a valuable contribution, for what comes to the surface in all of this is the old question of highbrow and lowbrow, perenially familiar to Americans. One of the great pieces of news in the world is that for the first time in history there exists a large nation with a mass culture -- the United States of America. That mass culture is the reverse of the medal of mass production. It is our special achievement -- source of our greatest pride, and some of our worst headaches. Is it not the theme around which all the major questions of education and of culture have revolved in the United States in this century? Precisely what it means for the United States, and for the world, will doubtless be disclosed in another hundred years. But one thing the American experience to date makes quite clear: the mass producers of culture and their critics need one another.
And here lies one more fixed point of reference. It is the interaction between the mass culture of the United States, and the cultures of other member states, which will at once begin to give UNESCO its shape and size. Will there be an unplanned and uncritical outpouring of American entertainment, American ideas, American news, the distinguishing characteristic of which is simply the size of the stream? This is what more than one country (quite apart from the group of Slav nations) genuinely fears. "Why, then, should the smaller nations and the so-called 'backward peoples' feel uneasy when America offered to share the enlightenment which its own people enjoy?" remarked the New Statesman and Nation, of London, in a discussion of UNESCO: [ix]
In the background [it continued] were the teeming factories of Hollywood dishing out canned-culture by the million-feet, the radio voices speaking with the Voice of America, the fecund presses ready to pour out acres of print about the American Way of Life. Countries saw their own cultures being swamped. In a "free" world, they would not be able to discriminate against Hollywood even on grounds of taste nor erect defensive barriers against the vast surplus of culture which America, with her enormous technical resources, is in a position to export.
That would seem to be the point at which the much harder question of relations with Russia can best be attacked. For the European nations, as for Latin America and the Orient, the question of quality is an inseparable part of the question of the "free flow of words and images." To equate a concern for quality with censorship (as did the specialists of the American Committee of Consultants) [x] and thus to brush it aside as inadmissible on principle is not merely disingenuous, but dangerously naïve as to the effects of a "free flow" of information on world peace. To assume that the faster and more powerfully the contacts between peoples are established and enlarged, the better the likelihood of understanding between them, is to ignore large sectors of history. As Sir Alfred Zimmern has said, travel, and reading newspapers, are the two great mediums for understanding a foreign land, but, as he also emphasized, both travel and reading are skills that need cultivation if they are to yield harmony rather than discord. The first reaction of natural man toward the stranger is hostility -- and toward the advent of the stranger en masse, war. The point need not be labored, though we might note the concrete instance which bears so directly on the present question -- that the appearance of mass-circulation newspapers both in England and the United States toward the end of the last century, in response to the growth in literacy, brought a mood of jingoism in both countries and was to a considerable degree responsible for wars.
A scheme of self-regulation by newspaper reporters and perhaps broadcasters, greater awareness of responsibility for quality by editors, publishers and all producers of "words and images," and absence of self-righteousness in arguing the question of the reduction of barriers to films, periodicals and newspapers, would seem to be prerequisites on the American side for amicable arrangements in this field with the nations which see the larger political issues pretty much as we do.[xi]
These are the arrangements that will anchor one end of the bridge and set the angle of its projection. To help construct them is UNESCO's immediate task. But that does not mean that thought about the relationship of Russia and the new agency may be postponed to a later day. To phrase the question of the U.S.S.R. and UNESCO merely in terms of whether and when Russia will join is to miss what would seem to be the most important point of all. The fact is that a world platform has been set up, and the corollary fact is that Russia is on this platform now, addressing the world. Whether or not she is formally a member state of the agency, she will certainly continue to do so. And with great shrewdness in perceiving openings, she will deliver her own message. She will say many intelligent things, as Mr. Ribnikar's speech at Paris shows. The message will likewise be ruthlessly propagandist. Mr. Ribnikar's demand, for example, that UNESCO take active measures to suppress "any attempt to provoke suspicion and hatred between the peoples," coming as it did after a demand for strict observance of the rules of the constitution, and after an attack on the centralization of UNESCO's activities which alone might give the agency power, made little sense. But it was skilful propaganda, enabling the speaker to take the offensive, and to attach the epithet Fascist to "the free flow of ideas" -- a nimble feat indeed. How effectively so negative a propaganda will appeal to men's imaginations in the longer run is another matter.
Russia does not doubt that a world community is desirable and necessary, but she has her own blueprint of the nature of that community. That, and not the shade of meaning of such words as "impose," or of "matters essentially within a nation's jurisdiction" and so forth, is the substance of the issue between Russia and the non-Communist world, here as elsewhere. Nothing is gained by pretending that this is not the case. We may remind ourselves again that there are many "clearing house" activities in which the U.S.S.R. can participate to her own and UNESCO's advantage; but it may properly be emphasized also that the agency's larger aim of bringing peoples more closely in touch with peoples is repugnant to the Soviet Union, and that she will oppose it, outside UNESCO or inside, as she thinks best. UNESCO can make it easier for the U.S.S.R. to look with favor upon many of its projects just by making them realistic, efficient and effective. But there is no use spinning a bridge of words.
Will the gap between the two worlds be widened, then, if the new agency, after careful examination of the mass-communication projects, goes ahead with them?
First let us note again that this may not be quite the question. If the United States pursues its own special interests, enthusiasms and objectives uncritically, a gap can open in a different place, that is to say, between the United States and other nations of the non-Communist world. The drive behind such prodigious organizations as the United States press and moving picture industries can never produce a tidy product; were they to aim merely at that, half their best virtues would disappear. But there is little virtue in the automatic application of any principle, least of all of such a mighty one as the principle of free speech.
If, however, there is give and take between the mass culture of the United States, and the cultures of other lands, a great community may slowly appear. All the mechanisms of UNESCO -- conferences, committees, administrative boards -- which throw Americans, Europeans, Middle and Far Easterners and Africans, mass-media specialists and educators, together in planning and executing the various projects of the agency will speed the growth of the community. And the projects themselves will bring peoples closer to peoples. Of course it is possible that the very process will widen the present gap between the Soviet and western worlds. The only guarantee that the gap will not widen is for all the world to become Communist.
Thus, UNESCO will work amid danger. But it may also work in confidence that it is on the road that leads to the coming political shape of things. It is not chance that brings so plain a challenge to this agency of the United Nations.
The Republic, the Utopia and the City of the Sun [wrote Lord Acton] were protests against a state of things which the experience of their authors taught them to condemn, and from the faults of which they took refuge in the opposite extremes. They remained without influence, and have never passed from literary into political history, because something more than discontent and speculative ingenuity is needed in order to invest a political idea with power over the masses of mankind. The scheme of a philosopher can command the practical allegiance of fanatics only, not of nations; and though oppression may give rise to violent and repeated outbreaks, like the convulsions of a man in pain, it cannot mature a settled purpose and plan of regeneration, unless a new notion of happiness is joined to the sense of present evil.
Is not the idea of the world community precisely that "new notion of happiness," which alone can make possible a settled plan of regeneration for the men and women of the world, as the idea of the sovereign, independent state was the new notion that made possible a political arrangement after Gutenberg had invented his type? We begin with two world communities in embryo. They now have one great common feature. In the plans which each has drawn up for its world community, both the Communist and non-Communist worlds recognize that the peoples of their community must enjoy at least one freedom -- the third on Franklin D. Roosevelt's list of four: Freedom from Want. The non-Communist world recognizes as essential for a sound structure the three others, which the mechanism of a secret police -- a distinguishing characteristic of the Soviet Russian state -- partly or wholly excludes: Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Fear. Those who believe that freedom of information is an inseparable part of the first of the Four -- the architectonic one -- can in the present danger only set to work by the blueprint which their own experience has traced. They will work in hope that all the Russian people, in and outside the Government of the U.S.S.R., and all the Slav people, will in time come to think that the house built on the four great pillars is more secure, more spacious and more pleasant than a structure built around one, and themselves will wish to use the freedom which that house affords.
[i] Llewelyn White and Robert D. Leigh, "Peoples Speaking to Peoples. A Report on International Mass Communication from the Commission on Freedom of the Press." Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946.
[ii] "School Text-Book Revision and International Understanding." Paris: International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation, 1933, p. 1.
[iii]Op. cit., p. 51.
[iv]Cf. "Peoples Speaking to Peoples," op. cit.
[v] UNESCO, General Conference, First Session, Verbatim Record. Paris, November 21, 1946.
[vi]Cf. "Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Seventy -- Ninth Congress, Second Session, on H. J. Res. 305," p. 15 ff.
[vii] "The Mass Media and UNESCO." Report of the Committee of Consultants to the Department of State, September 24, 1946.
[viii] Kenneth Lindsay, M.P., "The Future of UNESCO." The Spectator, London, December 13, 1946.
[ix] "America and Europe." The New Statesman and Nation, London, December 28, 1946, p. 475-476.
[x] But not the National Committee, nor the Department of State.
[xi] An anonymous columnist in the January 11, 1947, New Statesman and Nation -- that distinguished weekly which is stepping gaily on an increased ration of ideological oats -- offered a hint as to the way the wind blows over much of the Continent in this matter when he expressed the wish that the New York Herald Tribune would establish a London edition: he would take the risk of the "conservative" editorial page, he suggested, to get the benefit for English journalism of the Herald Tribune's great tradition of objective reporting.
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