Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Dual Motion of the Spirit that World Federalism Requires

by Ira Straus

Lord Lothian
British Ambassador to the US
In a 1935 Oxford lecture that is often regarded as the ablest exposition ever of world federalism, a renowned British diplomat, Lord Lothian, outlined the complex motions of the human spirit that are needed for arriving at a viable world federation. His very title -- “Pacifism is not enough, nor patriotism either” -- indicated the two opposite motions of commitment that every spirit needs to go through, in order to arrive at the foundations for a viable world federalism. And he indicated above all a third motion of the spirit, for reconciling the first two.

The first motion of the spirit was: to imbibe the virtues of national citizenship. 

The second: to rise above national loyalties with a sense of global citizenship.

The third motion: to return to the actuality of national citizenship and all its responsibilities, realizing that global citizenship is as yet only aspirational as there is no global government of which to be a citizen, but modifying the national citizenship with the aspiration to creating a global citizenship.  

One could detect in this a thesis, antithesis, and synthesis dynamic, or Consciousness 1, Consciousness 2, Consciousness 3. Lothian himself, however, did not introduce any Hegelian dialectics into it. He was simply responding to the positive and necessary citizenship virtues that he saw on both sides around him, and the limitations and vices he also saw empirically present in both of them: those stuck on the first level with patriotic consciousness, their minds oriented by their loyalty and commitment to their society as a country with a government; and those attached to the second level, their minds bearing a sense of a higher consciousness because of feeling global and universal. He saw that second level as indeed constituting a kind of transcendence, as it claimed, but a large false transcendence, one won on the cheap, without taking account of the reality that our citizenship is national and of the actual responsibilities we must bear. He hoped to persuade its adherents to move toward a more authentic transcendence.

Let's look again at each of these motions of the soul:

Motion 1. The first motion is the achievement of the consciousness that we all were supposed to be brought up on: loyalty to our country as a concrete political entity and a concrete society. Citizenship means, participating in the public life of this concrete entity, as a loyal member who shares in its mystic bonds of memory, identifies with its corporate purpose as evolved from its earliest past roots and stretching to future projects, debates its policies as one loyal to its concrete existence and needs, upholds its public order, obeys its laws, encourages one another to obey them, helps enforce them on one another, and in extremis, when called upon, fights and risk life itself to protect it. 

Motion 2. One must rise above national citizenship, one must transcend it by developing a sense of global citizenship, in order to complete national citizenship and render it consistent. The system of law and citizenship, when restricted to parochial boundaries, is self-contradictory, as it requires the citizen to commit to fighting externally, when necessary, with alegal violence. This external violence relies on the loyalty to the concrete nation, yet contradicts its internal norms of lawfulness, deliberation, and law enforcement. Only global law, enforcement, and citizenship can overcome the contradiction.  

Motion 3 entails a motion of reverse-transcendence: returning to the real and present responsibility of national citizenship, albeit in a higher form. One has to transcend the alluring charms of the claim to global citizenship, by facing the fact that this global citizenship is only aspirational. It is a kind of citizenship on the cheap, without obligations; it has a too-easy connotation of circumventing one's national citizenship obligations, and pretending to moral superiority over most other national citizens, who hold to their obligations more strictly. The solution is a renewed affirmation of national citizenship, but one that is higher, because informed by the awareness of the necessity of global citizenship also. This entails a responsibility for using national citizenship to undertake a complex construction of global institutions for global citizenship, even while continuing to uphold the national polity and its rules and methods in most aspects of daily practice. The global citizenship is built, not on the ruins of national citizenship, but as its complement. National citizenship that must continue practicing its virtues on the national level even while developing novel constructs for practicing the same virtues globally. And the global federalist construct is built primarily through national policies on international affairs, supplemented not substituted by end-runs around national citizenship such as transnational linkages. 

World Federalists have all made it to Motion 2. This is true almost by definition. Not all, however, have made it to Motion 3, or sound world federalism. 

It is not hard to be self-congratulatory on the moral progress they made by way of the second motion. It is the one they feel as a badge of identity, the one that has defined them as World Federalists; and some no doubt share in the post-1960s sense of belonging to a superior sector of society, one that regularly praises its fellow members as “the conscience of society” and has tended to forget the “conscience before society” that is the more basic element of a healthy conscience. It is not surprising that many get stuck there and fail to make it to the 3rd Motion. But, understandable as it may be, it is a weakness of the world federalist movement. It is a moral weakness, and on the practical level it could prove a mortal weakness. A policy movement must be able to persuade its society that its policy is for society's good, not for its punishment. Society will be justifiably skeptical of a movement's prescriptions, if the movement speaks in a spirit of an orientation against the society. 

The consequence of attempts at linear implementation of global citizenship in the present world, without a federal global polity -- play-acting in national politics and law as if a citizen of a world polity rather than as citizen primarily of a sovereign nation -- have usually proven damaging to global peace and security. They have reduced the prospects of ever moving forward to a global polity, and served to discredit the discussion of it. 

One can see this by contrasting the foreign policy records of Presidents who have fully made the  3rd Move corrective to their strong  world federalist commitment, rebuilding a full commitment to their citizenship of the nation and leading it with full regard for its national interests alongside their strong work for international construction -- Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon,  Reagan -- and two who did not make it back to true identification with their concrete nation, Carter and Obama. 

The former group were both nationalist and internationalist; as an editor of The National Interest, journal of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom, put it, one must be both, in order to carry the nation along in a successful internationalism. They all had to navigate extremely perilous international waters, yet they left the country and the globe in safer condition. 

The latter group were more linearly internationalist. They both left the world in considerably more dangerous condition, despite or perhaps because of expounding the doctrine of dedication to America as a collection of universal values rather than as a concrete society.  (The world was also left in worsened condition by a President who apparently never did make it up to Step 2 and world federalism, George W. Bush. World Federalism does help as a motivation for internationalism, which otherwise tends to be insufficient in face of the fact of national politics, which provides the default chief focus for a politician.)

Particularly disturbing were the occasions when they rejected as hypocrisy a compromising of their universal values, or compromising among them when they conflicted; or similarly, when they rejected the hypocrisy of any failure to apply them when conditions were not ripe and could not be expected to bear positive fruit for either American or global interests. This suggested an orientation tending toward opposition to not just negligence of the concrete nation, treating it as guilty before the world and needing expiation by using its principles at its expense. Far from benefiting the world, it did it harm. The same orientation against the “own society” can be seen in the peace movement, with which these two leaders identified.

Lothian's lecture itself was partly directed toward the peace movement, both for the sake of exposing its shortcomings, partly for prodding it to build on its energies and its justified anxiety for peace in order to arrive at a more sound posture and create a federalist movement. The inspiration for the title came from the British nurse and World War I spy Edith Cavell, who earned a statue in London with her final words, “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards any one.” But the peace movement in England and France was paving the way for Hitler's conquests. And so Lothian drove home the point that pacifism was not enough, either. A double movement of the soul was needed, to embrace fully the virtues both of patriotism and of global peace. And, Lothian concluded, to build global peace on a sturdy foundation, it would need above all the virtues of patriotism -- concrete citizenship, a mutual dedication among citizens that goes all the way to the point of enforcing the law on one another and laying down one's life to protect the concrete society -- so it could extend those virtues to the global level. He has been called a “prophet” for it: when Federal Union, the first truly serious international federalist movement, emerged in 1939, after the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the start of the World War, it was on the ruins of the peace and Communist movements, discredited by their part in paving the way for Hitler's conquests. Disillusioned intellectuals from those movements provided energy and publicity for Federal Union, although they also made some trouble, some of them sticking for example to pacifism in the face of Hitler's advancing armies, while adding federation to their menu of peace offerings to Germany, others reverting to a pro-Stalin loyalty once it became clear that Hhitler would lose. Fortunately the leadership of Federal Union came from characters of sounder political mind.

Lothian had been a diplomat at the Versailles Peace conference in 1919. He himself was something of an appeaser in the mid-1930s, not out of pacifism but because he knew personally how unfair the Versailles settlement was. He knew how to shift as reality shifted, and was a full supporter of the war effort by the time World War II broke out. He became Britain's Ambassador to Washington at the start of the war. He laid the cornerstones for the renewal of the Atlantic Alliance in that war, all the while expounding openly, as wartime and postwar goals, European, Atlantic, and World Federation. He worked himself to a premature death in the heat of his commitment, leaving his mission incomplete.

How to apply today his doctrine -- the classical doctrine of world federalism and of the entire international federalist movement, the one elaborated and popularized in the great books of Streit and Reves? On the spiritual level there has perhaps been some regress; this is in keeping with the spirit of the times, not just of the federalist movement. The ungovernability of the world has in some respects grown; citizenship has often come to be taught in an almost inverted form, equating it with demonstrative lawbreaking instead of with its actual meaning, one that includes upholding the law. This mood is incompatible with the creation and consolidation of an international government: it will require a real and reliable citizenship commitment. There is an aching need to recover the duality of movement of the soul, to rebuild the seriousness of world federalism and liberate it from the anti-national spirit that it is often associated with. But a separate article would need to do justice to this aspect of the problem.

On the policy level, fortunately, there has been some progress. The mainstream of World Federalism has outgrown the focus, often found in early passionate statements of the goal, on a popular global legislature that bypasses national interests. It has embraced instead the proposal, pioneered by the Center for War/Peace Studies, for complex, “triadically” weighted voting at the UN. 

Not all world federalists agree on Triadic voting, to be sure, and not all focus on it; strategic diversity is inevitable, indeed appropriate in a movement whose goal is a considerable distance away. Nevertheless, it seems fair to say that Triadic voting has come to be the core proposal of mainstream world federalism. It means that each nation's vote would be weighted three ways -- by population, by wealth, and by the traditional one nation one vote -- and a resolution would need to garner a qualified global majority in each of these three weightings in order to pass.

This form of triple weighting is also a triple balancing. The fact of voting would enhance the UN's capacity for and efficiency in decision-making; the multiple weighting provides the substantive checks and balances among the constituent political forces needed to make this safe for all major and legitimate entities. It would warm the heart of Madison -- not the accessory Madison of the paper constitutional protections of the Bill of Rights, or the technical checks and balances in The Federalist No. 5, but the core argument of Madison at the Constitutional Convention for forming a strong central (Federal) government, which he expounded for posterity in The Federalist No. 10: the preferability for a republic to be large and extensive rather than small, so as to comprise a variety of interests that would balance each other and prevent the congealing of compact (excessively cohesive and uniformly-minded) majority factions. In Triadic voting, the checks and balances in the voting weights are designed to enable each of the main constituent interests in the world to defend itself politically, in the leg of the “triad” where its interest holds a majority. The paper and technical checks and balances can be relied upon at all only after they have this basic cornerstone in political authority at their base; they work as supplements to the balance in authority, not as substitutes. 

Triadic voting is a provision that shows, in structural form, a spirit of appreciation for each of the major constituent societies of the global union. It enables them each to protect the integrity of their collective historical achievements. It respects the legitimacy and importance of their interests. It provides them with a solid basis for protecting the integrity of the constitutional restrictions on joint decision making and the autonomous integrity of their own decision making in their spheres of primary authority, even as they merge some of their powers. It upholds their patriotic virtues at home, even as it upgrades the basis for exercising joint patriotic virtues on the global level.

Specifically Triadic voting recognizes, in the wealth “leg” of the triad, the legitimacy of the collective achievements of the economically developed societies and the stable democracies. It is opposite in spirit to the radical denial of their legitimacy, a denial that attributes their achievements not to innovation and progress but to cruelty and exploitation, as in the fashionable Alt-history that is constructed about the West having created underdevelopment by pushing a hitherto-prosperous non-Western world backward. 

This makes Triadic voting a litmus test for the spiritual health of world federalism, as a movement that was invented in the modern West: Is it a movement devoted to claiming moral superiority over its society, stuck in Stage 2 of the motions of the spirit? Oor is it a movement that has made it to Stage 3, seeing in world federation something that must protect the collective achievements of its society, alongside those of other societies, and alongside opening up the space for a wider fulfillment of those achievements? 

On the rhetorical and ideological level, one can be concerned by a continued frequency and vehemence of Stage 2 discourse within the movement. On the policy level, it has for the most part passed this litmus test; it has mostly embraced triadic voting and the Stage 3 approach.

In this maturing there is hope.

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