Christian Lange, Andrew Carnegie and the arc of internationalism – Carnegie Europe
The Nobel Peace Prize awarded last week to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, journalists from the Philippines and Russia respectively, was an important reminder of the vital role civic actors play in promoting international peace. It also provided a fitting window for a hundred-year flashback to the 1921 Nobel Peace Prize. That year, the prize was awarded to Christian Lange, a Norwegian peace activist, intellectual and president. of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In his award acceptance conference, Christian Lange set out a public manifesto for the cause of “internationalism. “
Both passionate and precise, Lange’s description of a world in transition still resonates: âToday we are on a bridge that leads from the territorial state to the global community. Politically, we are still governed by the concept of the territorial state; economically and technically, we live under the auspices of global communications and global markets. He championed internationalism as the only force capable of defeating a rising tide of nationalism, militarism and protectionism.
Lange’s work has made him a soul mate and personal friend of the âCarnegie Men,â a group of European and American thinkers associated with Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which he founded in 1910. This informal network promoted international cooperation, peace, and disarmament in the first half of the twentieth century. Lawyers, diplomats and historians, they were both idealistic and stubborn. They included some of the greatest minds of the time, such as John Maynard Keynes and Hersch Lauterpacht.
Andrew Carnegie chaired and funded the peace movement at the time. It was the blossoming of what might be called the first manifestation of “global civil society,” which met at the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. The conference of 1907 saw the laying of the foundation stone for the Carnegie âPeace Palaceâ. There, William Thomas Stead, British newspaper editor and peace activist, called Carnegie himself “a modern Count of Monte Cristo, a Midas Reborn, an Aladdin whose checkbook served as his magic lamp.”
Lange’s Inter-Parliamentary Union, a large part of this network, has benefited from the generosity of Andrew Carnegie. When the Germans seized the Brussels office and the union’s assets during World War I, Carnegie saved it from bankruptcy. Lange was the foundation’s special envoy to the League of Nations in Geneva for a decade.
Like Lange, three men from Carnegie won the Nobel Peace Prize. Elihu Root won the award in 1912 when he was the foundation’s first president, in an illustrious career during which he also served as United States Secretary of State and Senator from New York. Root sent Lange to Russia after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917 to gather information before conducting US government negotiations with the Provisional Government.
The French diplomat and internationalist Baron Paul Henri d’Estournelles de Constant, who had won the award in 1909, was chosen to head the European office of the Carnegie Endowment in 1911. And Nicholas Murray Butler, Root’s successor as chairman of the endowment, was awarded the award in 1931 for his work in promoting international diplomacy after the end of World War I.
To this list must be added historian James Shotwell, a later president of the foundation who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but did not receive it. Shotwell sat at the table of the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and the postwar Dumbarton Oaks Conference in 1944. Most of Shotwell’s proposals were not accepted in Paris, although he did was the chief architect of the International Labor Organization, founded in 1919. In 1943, the Shotwell Commission drew up principles for the founding of the United Nations which closely resembled the eventual plan adopted by the great powers.
At the Carnegie Endowment, we know the names of these men and we sit in rooms bearing their names. But, with Lange, their names aren’t as well known to the world as they deserve.
Perhaps this is because the ambition of Carnegie and others to “hasten the abolition of international war, the most vile stain on our civilization,” like Carnegie himself urged, seems utopian today. The instrument with which Carnegie hoped to achieve world peace – international arbitration – had no executive power over the great nations of the day. Two international tribunals still sit inside the Carnegie Peace Palace in The Hague, and they deliver important judgments, but they have not prevented the two world wars or many conflicts since then.
Carnegie’s network was also associated with the League of Nations, to which the United States never joined and of which Germany and the post-war Soviet Union were members only briefly. The league is now best known as a weak organization that trumpeted the idea of ââcollective security without any suitable instrument to enforce it, allowing Adolf Hitler to demolish his paper walls in 1938 when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. But as the historian Andrew Webster says: âThe League was only a mechanism for the management of international relations, the success or failure of which depended on the willingness of states to use it.
The same could in fact be said of the United Nations (UN), which learned from the failures of the league and received greater international support in 1945. Lange would surely have endorsed the UN, as it echoed the statement of his Nobel Conference that âa world federation, in which individual nations linked in groups can participate as members, is the political ideal of internationalism. And he would undoubtedly have endorsed the European Union, the most ambitious and successful project in history to share national sovereignty in the pursuit of peace and prosperity.
Lange’s legacy will be honored next week in Oslo at a ceremony at the Nobel Peace Center marking the centenary of its achievement of the Peace Prize. Today, his call for internationalism deserves a new hearing. World politics is returning to the kind of great power clash that Lange and Carnegie’s men would have instantly recognized: a world in which the great powers, some of them led by aggressive nationalists, approach international affairs as a zero-sum competition. Yet the world faces a formidable battery of transnational governance challenges – climate change in the first place – that makes short-term nation-state agendas and their destructive military positions towards one another insane.
The multilateral organizations and mechanisms designed to restrict this competition are not as weak as the League of Nations, but they are not as strong either. Over the past decades, governments around the world have failed to commit the political capital and financial resources necessary to craft adequate multilateral responses to the many serious global issues they face.
Where governments missed opportunities, civic actors around the world, like the two courageous journalists who won the Peace Prize last week, have performed better. In 1921, Lange spoke of âthe intellectual interdependence created by the development of modern means of communication: post, telegraph, telephone and popular pressâ. Nowadays, this information is dispersed even faster, and the intellectual heirs of the Carnegie peace movement must respond to events even more quickly.
From Belarus to Brazil, civic groups and valiant activists are still learning to harness the new global information revolution. They successfully challenge entrenched and repressive power-holders, placing climate change and other pressing global governance challenges higher on the international agenda, and building bridges between warring camps in aggravated conflicts on multiple continents. However diverse these civic actors may be, most of them are linked by their commitments to a set of values ââthat are rooted, for lack of anything better, in internationalism.