Chapter XV Part II
International Unity: Some Lines of Fulfilment
One real problem with any proposed international council would be that in some pretext or other the great Powers would dominate while the others would ‘merely exist by sufferance or by protection or by alliance’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 399). Even if such an international council would have an outwardly democratic constitution, the position of a minor State standing against the dictates of great Powers would be worse than that ‘of a private company surrounded by great Trusts’ (Ibid). A real democracy is rare; it is usually the propertied and professional classes and the bourgeoisie who governed in the name of the people. So too in any international council or control it would be a few great Powers that would govern in the name of humanity (Ibid, pg 400). If a small nation or even a group of small nations tried to be assertive against the aggression of a single dominant Power, there could be some sympathy generated but if the assertiveness was tried against a coterie of giant Powers, a breakthrough was nearly impossible. The non-aligned movement of comparatively weak nations could never make any tangible impact against the might of the American and Soviet Blocs during the Cold War. The Cold War did not end by pressure from the non-aligned group, it was the in-built drawback of large aggregations that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union signaling the end of the Cold War.
Towards the end of World War I, a tendency towards large imperial aggregations started becoming dominant and if this trend could be somehow arrested by new evolving forces, there would be no respite to a state of confusion – ‘a great criss-cross of heterogeneous, complicated, overlapping and mutually inter-penetrating interests, a number of smaller Powers counting for something, but overshadowed and partly coerced by a few great Powers, the great Powers working out the inevitable complications of their allied, divided and contrary interests by whatever means the new world-system provided and using for that purpose whatever support of classes, ideas, tendencies, institutions they could find. There would be questions of Asiatic, African, American fiefs and markets; struggles of classes starting as national questions becoming international,; Socialism, Anarchism and the remainder of the competitive age of humanity struggling together for predominance; clashes of Europeanism, Asiaticism, Americanism. And from this great tangle some result would have to be worked out. It might well be by methods very different from those with which history has made us so familiar; war might be eliminated or reduced to a rare phenomenon of civil war in the international commonwealth or confederacy; new forms of coercion, such as the commercial which we now see to be growing in frequency, might ordinarily take its place; other devices might be brought into being of which we have at present no conception’ (Ibid, pg 401).
Sri Aurobindo speculated that such a state of affairs could culminate in a division of the world into a few great aggregates consisting ‘partly of federal, partly of confederate commonwealths or empires’ (Ibid). The world would be divided into a few main blocs. ‘America seems to be turning dimly towards a better understanding between the increasingly cosmopolitan United States and the Latin republics of Central and South America which may in certain contingencies materialize itself into a confederate inter-American State. The idea of a confederate Teutonic empire, if Germany and Austria had not been entirely broken by the result of the war, might well have realized itself in the near future; and even though they are now broken it might still realize itself in a more distant future. Similar aggregates may emerge in the Asiatic world ’(Ibid, pg 401-402). Three decades later, in a footnote, he commented on his own 1916 musings, ‘The Nazi Third Reich in Germany seemed for a time to be driving towards the realization of the possibility in another form, a German empire of central Europe under a totalitarian hegemony’. The march of historical forces prevented that disastrous possibility. However traces of Sri Aurobindo’s description of the amorphous state of world-affairs did actually exist in the Post World War II Cold War period with the American and Soviet Blocs along with a weak non-aligned movement in between. His contention that war would be replaced or reduced by newer modes of conflict, notably, commercial coercion has become a stark reality in the global market economy of 21st century.
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- By Dr. Soumitra Basu