From the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard
World government is an idea most people understand. Indeed, if science fiction books and comics are anything to go by, most people expect it to come sooner or later. Even though people expect world organisation to take the form either of a world dictatorship or of a federation of national governments they are still treating the world as one unit. This is a way of thinking we Socialists want to encourage. We do not stand for world government (we are opposed to governments everywhere) but for, to adapt a phrase, a world administration of things — the planned production and distribution of wealth on a world scale to meet human needs.
We have always understood the change-over from capitalist government to socialist administration to involve the capture ‘by a socialist-minded working class of the various national governments of the world to be followed by the dismantling of the coercive features of the old government machines but the retention, in adapted form, of some of the non-coercive technical functions now exercised by governments. In Britain, for instance, some of the functions of the Ministry of Transport or the Post Office might be retained insofar as they concern the technical side of communications.
Equally this could be done on the international scene. There is not as yet (if ever there is, which is unlikely) a world government but there is the United Nations Organisation a body which has in primitive form some of the features of this and which the advocates of world government want to see developed further. Just as on the national scale some of the institutions of the capitalist government machine could be adapted and used as part of the new socialist administration, so on the world scale could some of the institutions of the UN.
The UN was set up by the victorious powers in the second world war at a conference in San Francisco in 1945. Socialists have no illusions about the UN; we know full well that the expressive phrase that used to be used of the League of Nations — “the League of Bandits” — applies equally to the UN. It is a league of the various governments of the world at which most ruling classes are represented (the most notable exceptions being those of West Germany, Japan and state capitalist China). It is a body which serves the interests of the big powers, and especially America. It is only with their support, not to say their manoeuvring, that its meagre coercive powers, its so-called peace-keeping force, are used.
However the UN is more than the Security Council, its talking-shop General Assembly and its troops in blue helmets. It also has an Economic and Social Committee to which are responsible a number of bodies known as the “specialized agencies of the UN”. Most people are familiar with some of these without perhaps knowing they had anything to do with the UN — the FAO, WHO, ILO, IMF and World Bank, to name a few. These agencies are concerned with gathering information and giving advice in their respective fields, though some of them play a vital regulatory role as well.
Nine of these agencies could perhaps be adapted to play a part in the socialist administration of the world. They fall into two categories: those needed even in a capitalist world to regulate international communications (a further proof that we do have one world now under capitalism) and those which are essentially world advisory and statistical services in various fields.
Into the first category come:
- The International Telecommunications Union, originally set up in 1865 to ensure an orderly telecommunications network.
- The Universal Postal Union (1874), set up to ensure the orderly distribution throughout the world of letters and parcels.
- The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulates international air traffic allowing regular scheduled flights; it also promotes standardised technical equipment.
- The Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO) plays a similar role with regard to ocean shipping.
- The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) gathers and disseminates information on the world’s weather.
These organisations could play a basically similar role in world socialist society. Their significance for Socialist propaganda today is that they show that capitalism itself is already a world system and that it has to set up certain world organisations to deal with matters that can only be dealt with on a world scale.
The other bodies, besides collecting and disseminating information, are also involved in the economic development (albeit under capitalist conditions) of the so-called backward parts of the world:
6. The International Labour Organisation (1LO) deals with working conditions and training.
7. The United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) deals mainly with education and eradicating illiteracy.
8. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
9. The World Health Organisation (WHO) deals mainly with health hazards.
In addition there is one other relevant UN body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This is concerned with the peaceful uses of atomic energy, but also has a political role insofar as it aims to preserve the monopoly of nuclear weapons of the big three powers (sometimes called preventing the spread of nuclear weapons).
In the UN, then, there are ten bodies concerned with postal services, communications, air transport, ocean shipping, the weather, labour, education, agriculture and health which could form the basis of institutions for controlling these matters on a world scale in socialist society.
It is true that none of these bodies is involved in the actual production of wealth and that the more directly economic UN bodies — the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs — are more concerned with finance and commerce (which would have no place in Socialism). But some of the information which even these have gathered could be useful for planning production on a world scale to meet human needs. Planning in a socialist society, remember, will be essentially a statistical exercise, correlating estimated human needs with known world resources.
In the specialized agencies of the UN (and in the administrative networks of the growing number of trans-national corporations) the basic framework for a world administration already exists. It only remains for the workers of the world to realise this and to organise to take it over for the benefit of all mankind.