National Library of Norway

Europe without the League

The suggested epitaph -- "Died at the age of twenty!" -- is not correct, for actually the League of Nations did not live even that long. Born in 1919; denied at birth by the United States; nevertheless flourishing for a time; but later neglected by France and Great Britain, and then abandoned by them outright, it finally succumbed at the end of September 1938 under the repeated and unresisted blows of the totalitarian aggressors. The destruction of the League signified more than the decline of a political system in which Great Britain and France had played the dominant part. That would have been dangerous enough. But in addition it meant the collapse, for the time being at least, of the most powerful barrier which men had ever sought to erect against war. Without it Europe lacked its most promising instrument for preventing the overthrow of civilization and a return to chaos.

Some authorities, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries, attribute the League's downfall to its weakness in the Manchurian affair, or to its failure to solve the disarmament problem, or to its lack of any effective procedure for the revision of treaties. These were all important matters, though they were connected with imperfections in methods of operation (responsibility for which lies at the door of the Great Powers) more than in any basic principle. The writer gives it as his opinion, formed after participation in League activities from the very start, that its faults in procedure were far from dooming it to death. As a matter of fact the League never seemed more flourishing or more powerful than it did in 1934 and 1935.

The destruction of the League was an integral part, indeed the most important and necessary part, in the deliberate design of the totalitarian states -- Germany, Italy and Japan -- to divide, weaken and immobilize the peace forces in the world and thus to open the door to domination of the world. In the following pages the writer proposes to trace the origin,

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