Henry Usborne was a British Member of Parliament (M.P.), elected in the Labour party land-slide of 1945 soon after the end of World War II in Europe. He was a Burmingham businessman yet a socialist, a member of the leadership of Britain's Federal Union (which had aimed to pre-vent war by a timely union of the democracies), and by 1945 an M.P. whom the Labour party permitted to sound out a radical post-war foreign policy going beyond the new United Nations. Usborne was the only elected representative in any national government of the time who openly advocated creation of a world government, and he campaigned for election by the people in his district on that basis (1945 and again in 1950, in which he was twice successful). He was in principle a world citizen. As there was then, as now, no world government in which world citi-zenship would have practical meaning, he resolved to lead the novel processes of creating it.
When Foreign Minister Ernst Bevin and Conservative opposition leader Winston Churchill urged more cautious union policies-which became the North Atlantic Treaty and the Council of Europe, respectively-Usborne felt the historic opportunities were slipping away and so advo-cated a more revolutionary direct appeal to the people known as the peoples' convention. His earliest pamphlet advocating the approach in 1946 was entitled, "If They Won't, We Will!" In that year and next, he was a leader at meetings in Luxembourg, Brussels, and Montreux, Switzer-land, which produced two federalist organizations that still exist: the Union of European Feder-alists and the World Federalist Movement. His proposed date and place for a popularly elected world peoples' constitutional convention was 1950 in Geneva, which was overtaken by the Ko-rean War and the Cold War generally, so his efforts are now rather forgotten. Nevertheless, Henry Usborne historically was that rarest of leaders-a real world politician.
By the early 21st century, most scholars, politicians, and national citizens can barely imagine how a European or world federalist movement could arise, but a little reflection on the historical circumstances in 1945-50 will make it plain. The democracies, liberal and socialist (understood broadly-some 51 allies), were united in a great war against the fascist states and were trium-phant in victory. If the U.S.A., U.K., and U.S.S.R. had forged so close a working alliance during the war, was it so farfetched to propose a permanent peace based on a more perfect union? The atomic bomb had just been used in war. The Charter of the United Nations had been signed in June 1945 before revelation of the atomic bomb. The new world organization was hardly strong enough to restrain nations that were armed with nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass de-struction, which the "lights of perverted science" (said Churchill) would yet make available. The peoples of the world, who were far enough away from the terrible scenes of death and destruc-tion to be able to think, demanded that their governments never again wage a general war. The U.N., even if it did belong to a pre-atomic age, was the fruit of that popular demand. In princi-ple, the public demanded a first step toward the merging of national sovereignties. People had confidence in democracy and human powers to build a better world. Usborne himself, an engi-neer, had seen so many "impossible" things accomplished during the war that he imagined any-thing could still be done once the necessity for it was demonstrated.
The conduct of Parliament immediately
after Hiroshima is revealing. In August, the new Government began
to search for a foreign policy adequate to cope with the threat
of total de-struction. Prime Minister Clement Attlee said a week
after Nagasaki: "We have seen in action a new force, the
result of scientific discovery, the far-reaching consequences
of which, I think, we find it difficult to grasp; but I think
we can all realize we shall have to make a re-valuation of the
whole situation, especially in the sphere of international relations."
In the debate on ratification of the U.N. Charter a week later,
Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin said:
In the same debate, Anthony Eden
of the loyal opposition, said, "Since that bomb burst on
Na-gasaki, for the life of me I have been unable to see
any final solution which will make the world safe for atomic
power save that we abate our present ideas of sovereignty."
I am willing to sit with anybody, of any nation, to try to devise a franchise or a constitution-just as other great countries have done-for a world assembly, as the right hon. Gentleman [Churchill] said, with a limited objective-the objective of peace.
But British leaders did not follow Bevin's call for a world state. At the end of 1946, Usborne was accorded the honor of moving acceptance of the king's speech, which was the ruling party's usual occasion of launching a trial balloon for public acceptance of a new line of policy. Noth-ing came of it. A fateful year was lost. Most M.P.s favored "the next step through the U.N.O." U.N. reform, of the radical type earlier proposed by Grenville Clark's group at Dublin, New Hampshire, Usborne thought would fail "piecemeal." In March, Churchill made his famous "iron curtain" address, inaugurating the coming of what would soon be called the Cold War. Negotiations for a peace treaty with Germany broke down, and the four occupying powers began to move toward a division of the country. The Baruch plan for the international control of atomic energy failed by December. Bevin began rather desperately to align the United States in a permanent entangling alliance with Britain and Europe.
Usborne became completely disillusioned with the shortness of view of national leaders at the crisis following the world war. He virtually took over the direction of Britain's Federal Union, which included school mistress Frances Josephy and Scottish nutritionist Sit John Boyd-Orr (later a Nobel Prize laureate). He invited fellow M.P.s to join a new "Parliamentary Committee for World Government." By March 1946 he had almost forty. The slow work of aligning co-workers for so revolutionary an object as world government took most of the year.
In October 1946, federalists in Europe,
linked with the wartime Resistance, joined with American federalists
to form their first international organization, the Movement
(later the World Movement) for World Federal Government at the
Luxembourg conference. Seventy-five repre-sentatives from 37
organizations in 14 countries assembled, and they issued a ringing
One consequence of the Luxembourg conference was a split in the movement between those who thought that the practical next step in the face of Soviet hostility to the West over Germany was to form a European union, and those who held more doctrinally that world federation would be necessary to unite all regions of Earth, including Europe. Usborne himself tipped rather to-ward the "universal" position. The practical business of organizing a world movement fell to Tom Griessemer, a German emigre in New York and editor of the monthly World Government News. He had almost no money, but he stayed in Europe and over the next year slowly assem-bled forces for a founding convention of the two organizations in Montreux. He was aided by the Swiss League of Nations lawyer Max Habicht, who organized the movement on the basis of national organizations, rather than a "federal" structure of individuals, as the movement was pro-posing for the states. Even the federalists had to recognize the lingering reality of state sover-eignty.
All the issues of the time for a movement to unite the world were discussed: universal or de-mocratic state membership, voting proportional to population or "weighted" somehow to reflect education or "political maturity" for participation in a world legislature, representation of states and individuals (a "federal" system), a veto to protect a minority as in the new U.N., a bill of human rights, powers to be delegated to the union ranging from the minimum to maintain peace and security to the maximum to ensure justice (including a taxing power), and the transition-either U.N. reform or the peoples' convention.
Henry Usborne developed the peoples' convention. He conceived this as a direct appeal to the sovereignty of the people, which he admitted was an unofficial approach, though he hoped it would still emit from a responsible body. By January 1947, when he had 72 co-sponsors, he in-troduced a world federalist resolution in Parliament. By 1948, when the plan was well in place, over 100 were associated, including Sir William Beveridge, Bertrand Russell, and Sir John Boyd Orr. These numbers in Commons and Lords were comparable to the numbers of co-sponsors of world federalist legislation in the U.S. Congress by 1949. Though every week Usborne asked the leadership for a debate, he was unable ever to bring the resolution to the floor, and in fact he did not speak again on world government until the general parliamentary debate on Western Un-ion (the Atlantic alliance) in May 1948.
By August 1947 (historically in retrospect much too late: the Containment policy in March had announced the coming of the Cold War), Usborne and his dauntless little group circulated in Parliament a draft of a fuller statement of their plan, which became the classic little pamphlet The Plan in Outline. They were getting an organization together, the Crusade for World Gov-ernment. The problem of war was urgent in the minds of Usborne's parliamentarians. The common people everywhere understood the outlines of a solution, they contended. There had to be created a "Charter" (constitution) of the higher authority so that statesmen could settle their disagreements nonviolently. The charter would show them how to "transfer" the necessary sov-ereign powers (particularly the control of armed forces) to the authority, while retaining the powers necessary for their national jurisdictions. The idea was for the states to delegate "enu-merated" powers, exactly as in the U.S. federal Constitution, while retaining all others. What was needed was a limited and balanced world federal constitution.
Usborne proposed that unofficial elections of popular representatives, in the ratio of one per million, be held in as many countries as possible in the summer of 1950. Elections had to be un-official to avoid the taint of state manipulation, and besides, governments would probably not allow use of state electoral machinery for an opposition movement. But elections would provide the ultimate legitimacy for the issue. Since Britain had a population at the time of 38 million, Usborne planned a national unofficial ballot to elect 38 representatives. The United States would elect 130, and so on. These representatives would then gather as a World Constituent Assembly in Geneva in the fall of 1950 to draft the world constitution. Allowing time for the drafting, cir-culation of the text, amendment, ratification, and implementation of the constitution, it was not inconceivable that world federal government would be a fact by 1955.
The Plan in Outline made somewhat clearer how the unofficial elections would be held. Can-didates would present themselves before the Parliamentary Committee of the Crusade, which would have to organize an "electoral machine" in their home districts by use of post and press and many volunteers. Usborne estimated it would take 500,000 volunteers and £1 million to get out the vote in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. His model was the Peace Ballot of 1934, organized by Viscount Cecil of Chelwood and the League of Nations associations of the time to determine if there was popular support for Britain's remaining in the League as the crisis with Hitler's Germany gathered. Over 11.5 million votes were cast in that unofficial ballot (10.4 million in favor of the League). The cost in those days had been £11,000, and some 500,000 volunteers had gotten out the vote. Usborne declared that if he could get one-quarter of Britain's population (about 12 million people) to vote for world government in his unofficial election, he would have sufficient popular mandate to make ratification of the resultant World Charter an is-sue in the next parliamentary elections. Ratification then would be a "political certainty."
This was the daring plan that so impressed the Chicago Committee to Frame a World Consti-tution when G.A. Borgese and others began publishing Common Cause in 1947. There were dif-ficulties and ambiguities, such as the open avowal of proportional representation (one per mil-lion), the prospect of a single-party "election," and other things that Americans particularly ob-jected to when Usborne tried to transplant his crusade from the old Mother Country to the New World. Tennessee actually did permit use of its electoral machinery to elect three delegates in 1949. But the great point was that the plan presented a clear vision of world government as the solution to the problem of war, and it proposed means to that end that were practicable and effi-cacious.
So it was in the context of a drift
toward what seemed a third world war, and a daring pro-posal
to unite humanity to prevent it, that the Montreux congress of
the World Federalist Move-ment and the Union of European Federalists
took place in August 1947. (Technically, what was founded was
the World Movement for World Federal Government, now WFM, and
what was later renamed the Union Européenne des Fédéralistes,
though it kept the same acronym, UEF. The two groups became rather
hostile to each other until reconciliation in the 1980s.) Some
300 delegates and observers from 51 federalist organizations
in 14 countries assembled, and they is-sued an historic world
federalist declaration. The Montreux Declaration appealed to
the peoples of the world "while the nations waste their
substance in preparing to destroy each other."
Six "principles" of federalism were cited: universal state membership, limitation of national sovereignty, world law enforced on the individual, supranational armed forces and national dis-armament, international control of atomic energy, and world taxation. Two approaches were also given: U.N. reform and a peoples' convention in 1950. (Later, the Parliamentary approach was added.) The emphasis was on fast action.
One of the surprises of the Montreux congress was the appearance of Abbé Pierre (nom de guerre of Abbé Henri Grouès-Pierre). Man of God, decorated Resistance hero, protector of Jews, defender of laborers in the Underground, he was respected by both Gaullists and Commu-nists. Pierre became a delegate to the French Constituent Assembly in 1945 and thereafter a member of the National Assembly from Meurthe-et-Moselle. He so impressed the Montreux congress with his immediate understanding of the ideal of federalism, his selflessness, and his courage, that, although he was not an official representative of any federalist organization, he was elected vice-chairman of the continuing executive committee. He had tantalizing contacts with the Czechs before the Communist coup of February 1948.
The congress was criticized for lack of ideological preparation by the people of the world and even the delegates, lack of prominent national leadership on the order of Winston Churchill (who later created the Council of Europe on the basis of a few speeches), and lack of money, which in turn was rooted in shallow popular strength. These problems were well nigh insuperable, and remain so to this day. The logic of world federation, as of European federation, is clear and con-sistent with national revolutionary traditions, but without prominent, seasoned national leaders, like the American Founding Fathers, Woodrow Wilson, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the peo-ple do not follow. There was a moment in 1948 when Dwight Eisenhower was mentioned ("Ike is the only man who could rouse masses," said Harris Wofford), but that proved fatuous.
Nevertheless, the brave little movement pressed on. Usborne made trips, despite post-war austerity, throughout Britain and Scandinavia. The first president of WFM, Jean Lameroux (a French social scientist), and Henri Koch (a paid propaganda chief) traveled to Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland, where they met the press and were interviewed on radio. They also met parliamentarians in the three countries with such success (the Chairman of the Commons in Lux-embourg and the Chairman of the Senate in Holland were leaders of federalist groups) that a whole new approach-the "parliamentary approach"-dawned on Larmeroux as an alternative to Usborne's plan, for which Larmeroux had not found much support. The idea was to convene federalist parliamentarians from throughout the world, draft a motion calling for a world con-stituent assembly, then submit it officially to the parliaments. This approach ultimately led to Usborne's Parliamentary Group for World Government (through 1953) and later, by the enter-prise of Nicholas Dunlop, to Parliamentarians for World Order (1978).
Usborne then traveled to the United States. He spent all of October 1947 on a continental tour, visiting New York, Princeton, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Oak Ridge, St. Louis, Cleve-land, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York again. He spoke twenty-eight times to audi-ences of 40 to 1,000 and spoke on the radio, to world federalists, atomic scientists, councils of foreign relations, students, and the public about world government and his plan to hold a peo-ple's convention in Geneva by 1950. He found a particularly receptive audience at the Univer-sity of Chicago, where Robert M. Hutchins, G.A. Borgese, Mortimer Adler, Stringfellow Barr and others of the Committee to Frame a World Constitution had been working on similar lines since the week after Hiroshima. They saw world government not as 500 years distant, but five. If an effective world organization were not created before the Russians developed their own bomb, Adler particularly feared, a nuclear World War III would become inevitable. Usborne also met Mrs. Anita McCormick Blaine, elderly heiress of the immense McCormick reaper for-tune, who let it be known that she wished to make a contribution of one million dollars to a radi-cal plan to establish world government.
The upshot was creation of a complementary American plan for the peoples' convention. Usborne was still confident in 1948 that he could get 10 million British voters (half the voting population) to elect unofficially a slate of 38 popular representatives (one per million) to the convention in Geneva in 1950. The U.S. delegation was projected at 143 representatives elected by 40 million. After some favorable contact with India's Jawaharlal Nehru, Usborne thought the plan could begin with a few key countries: Great Britain, United States, Norway, Sweden, Den-mark, India, and Pakistan. At Geneva in 1950, therefore, the popularly elected delegates would draft a world constitution. Usborne sketched the support he had already received from organized peace societies, churches, industry, labor, and political parties. The mainstream American or-ganization, United World Federalists (UWF), under Cord Meyer, was cautiously aboard. Us-borne estimated he could get by on less than the £1 million originally budgeted, and he described the campaigning and door-to-door canvassing necessary to get out the vote.
At a planning meeting in the Pocono Mountains in June 1948 (all expenses paid by Mrs. Blaine), many questions were raised about this plan: Where was France? Why Sweden? Was not Russia a key country? Usborne thought Russia's participation was so unlikely that the movement should concentrate just on getting the seven key countries to join, leaving the door open for Russia's 175 representatives. Supposing the convention were actually held with, say, 1,000 representatives, how would so many draft a constitution? They might choose between ri-val drafts like the Chicago committee's or form a drafting committee of their own; then the whole convention might have to sit for a year. Since proportional representation was used for the convention elections, would the constitution be based on weighted representation? Probably not, for a popular movement for world government had to be on the strict democratic basis of proportional representation. What would be done with the world constitution? The representa-tives could not begin to set up world government in defiance of national states! Usborne pro-posed that it be submitted to "world opinion," that is, to governments in support of an initiative for U.N. reform.
What is impressive from a historical perspective is that in 1948 these attendees at Pocono took the peoples' convention seriously. They believed it would be held, with hundreds of elected popular representatives. They believed that the Geneva convention in 1950 could actually inau-gurate a world republic. Their confidence seems rooted in a mental atmosphere in the mid-1940s now hard to imagine. These people had just won a world war for democracy. They had just escaped isolationism-meaning Washington and Jefferson's tradition of building up a free country far from Europe's quarrels. They were citizens of the world. They sensed the long-term threat to all humanity of nuclear war and were acting responsibly to abolish war. They felt their American government had begun to do the right thing (United Nations, Baruch plan), then lost its way. They were exercising their First Amendment right of assembly to save their government and the world.
The difficulties of the plan can
be seen in the proposed electoral process. Usborne had in mind
the simplest ballot in which the voter would be asked to select
38 of perhaps 100 nominees. There was a "straight ticket"
box to mark for voters who did not know the candidates but wished
to be represented at Geneva. The Parliamentary Committee in London
would do the nominating, and independent candidates could be
put on the ballot by petition. The issue of world govern-ment-yes
or no-was the only one in the campaign. By "world government"
Usborne specified on the ballot a semi-maximal government with
powers to monopolize all armed forces, control atomic energy,
establish a world bank, and administer a world food program.
G.A. Borgese was certain that if maximalism became an issue, it would lose, and the U.S. would send a delegation of 143 to Geneva committed to minimalism, which would lead to a loss there in a convention dominated by the middle world. "Usborne's four points [powers]," he said, "are too much for America, too little for the world." Mark Van Doren observed gloomily that "one-half of the world has had no political [democratic] experience," which made him doubt the wisdom of an appeal like the peoples' convention. Donovan Richardson of the Monitor worried that "a majority [of the people] might be in favor of world government but not in favor of doing the things that need to be done to get it." Scott Buchanan eloquently argued against an unoffi-cial approach, since it could loosen citizens' loyalties to their existing states, and, if the conven-tion went awry, lead to even worse anarchy than the present sovereign state system. "The PC [peoples' convention] would go on outside governments and set up tremendous pressure. It sounds like a conspiracy. This could lead to hell."
The task was nearly impossible and the times too dangerous even to make the attempt. Us-borne commented wryly, "The world is in a jam. We must use devices as honestly as possible, but devices." A continuing committee under Stringfellow Barr was created. Said Barr: " We will have to trust people. We shouldn't have a delegation draped in reservations. We must be-lieve that we can get a brave and intelligent group, and we must go wholeheartedly into it. This conference has convinced me that a PC is possible."
Barr set straight to work developing
the beginnings of the American campaign for the peo-ples' convention
made at Pocono. He named the other members of the continuing
committee: Steve Benedict, Harris Wofford, Edith Wynner, and
Bob Young of World Republic. No one whose attitude was one of
resignation was invited, which excluded UWF at first. The committee
members aimed, in their deliberations on the unsolved problems
of the mode of elections and the eventual constitutional convention,
"to steer a course," as an attendee at Pocono wryly
put it, "between the Tower of Babel and the Congress of
By the end of July 1948, a formal draft of an American plan was ready. Barr and his commit-tee projected a vote of 12 million Americans (one-eighth of the electorate), state and national (syndical) nominating conventions, mixed elections (house-to-house balloting, official voting where possible, the national convention for at-large candidates), and a budget of $1 million for the first year, $4 million for the elections in 1950 and for the actual sending of representatives to Geneva.
But then, as a lesson to would-be world politicians, after Stringfellow Barr put the final touches on the American plan to cooperate with Henry Usborne's Crusade for World Govern-ment, the dream was blown away like a cloud.
It was well known that Anita ("A.B.") McCormick Blaine, 84-year-old heiress of the McCormick Reaper fortune, was a generous supporter of Henry Wallace for president. Blaine did not conform to familiar stereotypes of the very rich. When it was rumored that she wanted to give $1 million for the first phase of the PC campaign, the possibility that Wallace, too, might become associated was on everybody's lips at high levels in the world government movement.
Only those close to Barr or openly contending for the Progressives like R.G. Tugwell or Scott Buchanan stood their ground. The hint of Communism in Wallace's campaign was enough to carry off the others. Simple fear was not the reason-it was as much calculation by world gov-ernment advocates of their chances on the political scene if they should have any contact what-soever with the Communist party. The situation was absurd because meaningful world govern-ment in 1948 had to mean inclusion of the Soviet Union in some way, if only by keeping the door open for admission when the Communist regime would permit greater personal freedoms, and that meant close contacts and negotiations with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) on the most sensitive point of sovereignty. That so small a cause as Wallace's potential association could have destroyed the campaign for a peoples' convention indicates with almost mathematical rigor the true strength of the world government movement in 1948.
On 2 August 1948, at an important meeting of the continuing committee in New York, news definitely came that Mrs. Blaine wanted Henry Wallace to be one of the trustees of her $1 mil-lion foundation to support the PC. Barr was in Chicago that very day to clinch the deal. Harri-son Brown, acting chairman in Barr's place, begged the committee not to release any news to the public about either the million or Wallace until January 1949, well after the elections.
Meyer observed sternly that those
who pay the piper call the tune. Cousins expressed the sense
of the meeting "that it would be disastrous if the trustees
were of any political coloration." Their fears clearly were
that Wallace would enter the world government movement as a minority
party candidate, thus alienating the Democrats and Republicans
on whom they still had to rely for donations and votes. Then
in his train would come the Communists, who would complete the
destruction of the movement. The Progressive party, in their
view, was no model for a success-ful world government electoral
Harrison Brown immediately took the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists (and its donor list) out of the campaign, and young Larry Fuchs for UWF got Barr to resign from the continuing committee on the 16th. Wallace's entry made a "nonpartisan" campaign impossible, they said. Thereafter, the PC campaign fell under the ban of UWF. The committee continued to perfect its plans, and it met a few more times, but the will was gone from the effort.
In early September, a brief hiatus occurred while the movement was preoccupied with the 1948 congress of the World Movement for World Federal Government. But when Barr flew back to New York, he was greeted by general hysteria whipped up by lurid press accounts of Wallace taking over the Foundation for World Government. "Angel's Million Assures Wallace Post- Election Job," headlined the New York World-Telegram on September 14th. "Wallace To Be Aide of World Peace Groups," warned the Daily-Mirror.
It has since come to light that Edith Wynner, who had done so much to get the peoples' con-vention rolling, was the source of these stories. Her motive, she said, was "to keep the money out of Communist hands." She was not alone. Radical peace workers in her generation had been thoroughly disillusioned with Communist party flip-flops directly linked to Soviet foreign policy in 1935 and thereafter and they saw noncooperation as vital not only to the defense of the United States but also to the larger goal of world peace and justice.
The Scripps-Howard chain spread the
news across the land. The Chicago Tribune, in a story full of
innuendoes about Communism and abolishing the United States,
reported a "role for Wal-lace in Foundation." A Washington
commentator warned that the world government movement would become
a "fifth column for Russia." Ely Culbertson, the great
impostor of the world gov-ernment movement, saw danger that "Communists
might enter the movement by using them for a front."
The upshot was that Stringfellow Barr found himself in possession of a million dollar founda-tion for world government, whose support the American movement would not accept, at a mo-ment when money was never more urgently needed to build up a popular movement for an East-West settlement and permanent peace through world government!
Barr eventually wrote a very fair
account of the whole Pocono affair, explaining why the Foundation
for World Government was no longer committed to launching a campaign
for a peo-ples' convention:
If Edith Wynner had not made her
press release, perhaps the story of the Wallace connection could
have been delayed until January, as Harrison Brown wished. Then
the affair would not have been entangled in the heated 1948 elections.
But probably the news would have leaked out elsewhere. Political
activists of those days remembered bitterly the complete flip-flop,
over-night, of the Communist party of the United States first
in 1935 with the United Fronts strategy, then in 1939 with the
Stalin-Hitler pact, then in 1941 on the invasion of the Soviet
Union by Nazi Germany, and again in 1947 with the formation of
the Cominform. There was little respect left in the country for
the party as a political organization with which one might strive
or cooper-ate in a common struggle for freedom and economic advancement.
It was regarded simply as an agent of a foreign power. To cooperate
with the Communist party was bad world government politics.
The PC branch of that movement quickly dried up. The continuing Pocono committee offi-cially dissolved itself in late September and a new national committee entirely under UWF aus-pices was formed. That committee produced a number of finished proposals, primarily under Meyer and Fuchs's inspiration, for the UWF assembly in November. A survey of the branches found them divided, seven to seven, on a PC campaign. At the Minneapolis assembly, the mem-bership approved still another committee for an unofficial constitutional campaign, but without support at headquarters it languished. A few months later, the national council decided to under-take a state-by-state campaign for a U.S. constitutional amendment favoring world government, which by UWF's lights was prior, legal, educational, and popular.
As the Cold War developed, and the
Blaine million disappeared after the Henry Wallace im-broglio,
Henry Usborne's crusade faltered for lack of money and massive
public approbation. Nevertheless, it was decided at the World
Movement's Stockholm congress in late 1949 that so seriously
were international relations deteriorating that a desperate attempt
should still be made to hold the world peoples' convention in
Geneva in the promised year of 1950. When the Ko-rean War came,
Usborne was not surprised. War had been continuous since 1914-a
"civil war" within Western civilization, he wrote to
Elisabeth Mann Borgese, chairperson of the World Movement executive
committee. "The only way to end it," he added, "is
to create a World Gov-ernment that can institute law and order."
Then, in the midst of federalist legislative activity at the level of the states, before the reaction set in, Farmer interested state senator W. A. Harwell of Lawrenceburg to introduce a resolution for direct election of delegates from Tennessee to a world constitutional convention in Geneva in 1950. Within four months, it passed the legislature, and Governor Gordon Browning signed it into law on 4 May 1949. Farmer, Harwell, and a third man, former senator J.B. Avery Jr., ran for the delegate slots in the election of 3 August 1950 and were elected by a total vote of about 290,000. The voters may have been a bit puzzled by this race-the Nashville Tennessean of 16 July 1950 commented, "There is little political interest in this unusual race"-but Farmer and the others seem to have won fair and square; a challenger, Richard N. Satterfield, linked to Governor Browning and U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver, was defeated. Apparently the people of Tennessee wished to give this method a try.
Farmer and Harwell (Avery did not
go) were the only Americans, or for that matter, represen-tatives
of any nationality actually elected as delegates to the Geneva
peoples' convention in 1950. They had the legitimacy within a
democracy of being chosen by consent of the people. This fact
colored particularly Farmer's conduct toward all the others who
gathered for the con-vention. In effect, Fyke Farmer upstaged
Henry Usborne and wrested the PC away from him.
1. Robert Sarrazac's 400 mundialized
In their place, a new "International Committee on Arrangements," under one Gerry Kraus, was formed, and this group (all new and to the others relatively unknown) was responsible for the Geneva convention. Farmer seems to have regarded the four groups on the European scene as amateurish and dilatory, as they might indeed seem to someone not too experienced with the immense difficulties of mobilizing masses of people during an approach of war (Usborne's Cru-sade had only about 50 M.P.s left; the World Movement was bankrupt). In any case, his actions and statements reveal an attitude that he regarded them as illegitimate. No people had elected them.
The committee on arrangements planned
two conferences-a World Constituent Assembly for the elected
delegates (eventually 3) and a Peoples' World Convention for
all the observers and attendees interested in planning future,
more effective conventions (500 from 42 countries). The peoples'
convention opened at the Palais Electoral on 30 December 1950
and met for six days. As luck would have it, the Chinese Communists
had just entered the war in Korea, and all the world's attention
was focused on Asia as the possible place where the long-predicted
Third World War would begin. So the Geneva convention drew almost
no press attention-certainly not in proportion to its revolutionary
idea. One English reporter called it "an almost unrelieved
picture of inefficiency, inexperience, woolly thinking, feud,
jockeying for power, and disagree-ment on matters of procedure."
Lord Boyd-Orr was chosen as honorary president; at the last minute
he chose not to come but sent an encouraging message. Albert
Einstein also sent a mes-sage. Prime Minister Nehru of India
passed through Geneva at the airport, where Harwell and a remnant
of Usborne's group who had once tried to interest him in leading
the PC approach went to greet him.
Amidst applause, he was welcomed
with warm handclasps from the two white Southerners. When asked
to produce his credentials, Ita explained that the British imperial
authorities did not permit elections but that he had traveled
across his country collecting "mandates" from officials
and chiefs of "several millions" to represent "Mother
Africa" at Geneva. This was not quite enough for Usborne,
who inspected his papers and concluded that Ita had not been
elected and must retake his seat. Later, at the end of the convention,
Farmer ruled that, under the circum-stances, Ita had done the
best he could to be recognized "as a true representative
of the Nigerian people." In the wide world, there would
be many different customs equivalent to Western-style election.
"To hold otherwise," Farmer affirmed, "would defeat
our basic idea, which is that the people themselves must institute
the means to ensure the preservation of humanity."
The important action for continuing
the process in the future took place behind the scenes of the
Peoples' World Convention, open to all. For the next few days,
while some 100 resolutions were being introduced and debated-one
was a plan for a Petition of One Billion to outdo the Stockholm
Peace Petition, another was for a world law guaranteeing women
one-half of all places in the world government-the Mirabeau group
and the Farmer-Kraus faction struggled over what Richard Carter
called "one overall authority for the Peoples' Convention-an
author-ity, or an international council, which would be the ultimate
source of information regarding the vital and complex issues,
such as credentials for the delegates, acceptable methods of
election, etc., and of direction of future work for the PWC the
world over." The upshot was that two rival continuing committees
emerged, each charging the other of betrayal of fundamental principles.
But perhaps none of this mattered. Farmer's Continuation Committee was scheduled to meet next in Paris in September 1951 but never did. The Tennessee act that provided for election of delegates was rescinded by the time Farmer returned home, so his mandate was lost. His interna-tional group dissolved over problems of money, distances, and recriminations. Kraus fled to Af-rica. Usborne's world council evolved into the substantial Parliamentary Group for World Gov-ernment, which held respectable conferences annually in London, but they could not be sustained after 1953.
The peoples' convention approach is remembered by some federalists with a revolutionary bent, but guidance by national authorities has generally been accepted by the movement.