League of Nations

The League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Founded on 10 January 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference that ended World war I, it ceased operations on 20 April 1946.

The organization’s primary goals, as stated in its covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Its other concerns included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe. The Covenant of league of Nations, was signed on 28 June 1919 as Part I of the Treaty of Versailles, and it became effective together with the rest of the Treaty on 10 January 1920. The first meeting of the Council of the League took place on 16 January 1920, and the first meeting of the Assembly of the League took place on 15 November 1920. In 1919 U.S. president Woodrow Wilson Won the Nobel peace prize for his role as the leading architect of the League.

The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift from the preceding hundred years. The League lacked its own armed force and depended on the victorious First world allies (Britain, France, Italy and Japan were the permanent members of the Executive Council) to enforce its resolutions, keep to its economic sanctions, or provide an army when needed. The Great powers were often reluctant to do so. Sanctions could hurt League members, so they were reluctant to comply with them. During the Second Ithalo-Ethiopian war when the League accused Italian soldiers of targeting the International Red Cross, Benito Mussolini responded that “the League is very good when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out.”

At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members. After some notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis Powers in the 1930s. The credibility of the organization was weakened by the fact that the United States never joined the League and the Soviet Union joined late and was soon expelled after invading Finland. Germany withdrew from the League, as did Japan, Italy, Spain and others. The onset of World War II showed that the League had failed its primary purpose; it was inactive until its abolition. The League lasted for 26 years; the United Nations(UN) replaced it in 1946 and inherited several agencies and organisations founded by the League.

League of Nations (LoN)

The League of Nations was designed to enforce the Treaty of Versailles and the other peace agreements that concluded World War I. It was also intended to facilitate open diplomacy and peaceful mediation to settle war disputes.

Success :

  1. ILO: The International labour organisation was the most successful. The goals of ILO include fixing maximum working days and minimum wages, ensuring that member nations provide for unemployment benefits and old age pensions.
  2. Refugee organisation: It helped the Prisoners of War in Russia to their homes outside Russia. In 1933, it helped the Jews, who were fleeing to escape Nazi persecution, to resettle in different countries where they would be safe.
  3. Health organisation: It did good work in finding causes of different epidemics. It was especially successful in combating the Typhus epidemic in Russia which had the potential to spread to the rest of Europe.
  4. Mandates commission: It had the responsibility of monitoring the governance of territories given to member nations as Mandates.
  5. International disputes: Here the League had partial success. It forced Greece to pay compensation to Bulgaria, when the former invaded the latter. But none of these disputes threatened world peace.

Failures :

  1. The League of Nations came to be viewed as an organisation of the allied powers especially of France and Britain, setup for implementation of unjust peace treaties, which failed to satisfy all nations.
  2. The Conference of ambassadors was set up as a temporary body to resolve disputes. But, it continued to exist even after the formation of the League. This hurt the legitimacy and the authority of the League of Nations.
  3. The League of Nations failed to check any violations of the frontiers established after WWI through the peace treaties. It also failed to take a firm stand on aggression displayed by Italy, Germany and Japan. For example, it imposed only partial trade restrictions on Italy after its Abyssinia invasion.
  4. The League of Nations was not a truly representative organization. It had limited membership and the USA did not join it. This resulted in lack of funds for the League’s work.
  5. It was also made to defend an imperfect treaty which suffered from biases and was prone to be broken. The Peace treaties signed were against the principle of self determination. For instance, millions of Germans resided outside Germany in Czechoslovakia and Poland after the peace treaties. Similarly, many Turks were now residents of Greece.
  6. It was only Germany, which was made to disarm under the Treaty of Versailles. The League failed to convince other major powers to disarm. Hitler used this as an excuse to quit the World Disarmament Conference. Soon, he denounced the League of Nations and made Germany quit it as well.

All the imperfections of the league were responsible for the occurrence of the 2nd major world war.