Part-II: How and why did the United Nations come into being?
The idea of a world body dedicated to the cause of maintaining world peace was born out of the First World War. The League of Nations was formed in 1920 with 42 founding members. However, in its 26 year long history, the League of Nations never included more than 50 states at any given time. More importantly, it failed to prevent or take meaningful action on any major acts of aggression that took place in that time. The outbreak of a second world war less than twenty years after its founding marked the virtual collapse of the League of Nations, although it was only formally dissolved in 1946.
Even before the end of World War II, the Allies who were fighting jointly against Nazism and fascism got together on several occasions to discuss how to ensure a lasting peace after the War ended and how to spare humanity from the horrors of another such war. Various meetings were held between the leaders of the major Allied powers, including the US, Soviet Union, Britain and China to discuss this.
As a result, even before World War II had fully ended, representatives of 50 countries gathered at San Francisco in the US at the founding conference of the United Nations. After several weeks of deliberations, on 25 June, 1945, the Charter of the United Nations was passed unanimously. After the Charter was ratified by the legislatures of the majority of the states, the United Nations came into existence formally on 24 October, 1945, with 51 members.
The United Nations Charter began with the promise “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” It gave expression to the widespread and deep sentiment among the world’s peoples for peace, equality and justice for all. Most important was the idea that lasting peace could be built only by respecting the independence, sovereignty and equality of all states, big or small.
Unlike the situation at the end of World War I, where the peace talks were dominated by a handful of imperialist powers, the discussions leading to the founding of the United Nations included the socialist Soviet Union. It also included China, which was then under the rule of the Guomindang (Nationalist) Party. However, the conditions in which the UN was founded were full of tensions and potential conflict.
Firstly, a new “cold war” had already been launched by the imperialist powers headed by the US and the UK against the socialist Soviet Union, even though it was still formally their ally. The main concern of these imperialist powers in the fluid post-war situation was to isolate and encircle the Soviet Union which had gained immensely in international prestige and influence during the War. They launched a vicious campaign of lies and disinformation against the Soviet Union, to discredit socialism and communism as the greatest “threat to freedom and democracy”.
Secondly, the imperialist powers were determined to manipulate or suppress the struggles for national liberation and independence in the former colonies and dependent countries that had gained strength during the War. They were also determined to obstruct the establishment of anti-imperialist, anti-fascist governments of peoples democracies in countries liberated from Nazism and fascism.
Thirdly, despite the horrendous suffering caused by the War, US imperialism had not only developed new and deadly weapons of mass destruction, but had even used them, as was seen in its unilateral dropping of two atomic bombs which wiped out the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. This was done even as the countries of the world were ratifying the UN Charter.
The people of the world had hoped that the UN would further the cause of world peace and progress. But in actual fact, the United Nations right from the beginning was an arena of struggle between the imperialist powers that sought to launch new wars of aggression on the one side, and the forces that stood for peace, democracy and the liberation of the peoples, headed by the Soviet Union, on the other side.
The Soviet Union led by JV Stalin was fully aware that the imperialist powers, who then controlled a majority of the member states, would try and use the UN as an instrument of their striving for global domination and against the forces standing for socialism, democracy and national liberation. This was why the Soviet Union supported the provision that all the decisions of the UN Security Council – the body which dealt with all matters concerning war and peace – must be agreed upon by all the five permanent members (the US, UK, France, the Soviet Union and China). This was the origin of the power that these five states had to veto any decision taken in the UN Security Council.
Next Part III: Major developments since the founding of the UN