Federal Union, Inc.

In 1939, a few months after the publication of Union Now, which was soon to become a best-seller, people were drawn to its ideas and began organizing in groups around the country. Federal Union, Inc., was founded as a non-profit membership organization committed to work toward the goals proposed in the book (see Federal Union, Inc. Articles of Incorporation).

Streit offered the federal union concept as a method of defending the free world against totalitarian regimes, with the expectation that such countries could eventually become integrated members of the union once they replaced their authoritarian governments with democratic ones. Thus, from the very beginning, the mission of the organization has been to defend, extend, and sustain individual liberty and peace. Other Federal Union members and supporters, including George Marshall, Robert Schumann, Theodore Achilles, Will Clayton, Lester Pearson, and Paul Henri-Spaak, played key roles in the birth of the Marshall Plan, NATO, and the European Community.

Federal Union Inc. National Committee, Staff and Council of Advisors in 1941

Supporting Federal Union Inc.


Federal Union and the Unfinished Business of the Euro-Atlantic Institutions

By Tiziana Stella, Ph.D.

"What then is the true test of the historical importance of events? I say, is their pregnancy, or in other words the greatness of the consequences likely to follow from them."
J. R. Seeley, 1883

The Federal Union movement (initially called Inter-democracy Federal Unionists) was born in 1939 as a result of the publication of Union Now: A Proposal for a Federal Union of the Democracies of the North Atlantic, by Clarence Streit (find the articles of incorporation for the Inter-democracy Federal Unionists here). Streit's work and movement inspired many of the founders of NATO and developers of the Marshall Plan, and those who in the 1950s and '60s worked for the completion of a true Atlantic community.

The publication of Union Now was a turning point in several respects. From the standpoint of the history of political thought, it constituted a new point of departure for the development both of Atlanticism and of the movements for international federation. Today the major federalist movements -- European, Atlantic and World -- can be traced in their lineage and found to be descendants of the movements born on the wave of the publication of Union Now. From the standpoint of international organizations, the European Union, NATO, and the other European and Atlantic institutions would not have developed in their present forms if it had not been for the impulse provided by these movements.

The book presented the project for a federal union of fifteen Atlantic democracies, with a common citizenship, defense, customs, currency, and postal system. These democracies were already, in Streit's view, a homogeneous group; for more than a century they had not gone to war against one another, most of their foreign trade was with one another, they controlled the seas and two-thirds of world trade, and they covered (together with their colonies) almost half of the surface of the globe and half of its entire population. Their weakness vis-a-vis the totalitarian regimes in the 1930s was born exclusively from the anarchy that characterized their own mutual political relations; the simple fact of their union would have sufficed to eliminate the danger of conquest by the autocracies, and would have instead constituted the democracies into the nucleus of a future world federation.

In 1939, this initial federation would have had two immediate goals. On the one hand it would have prevented a second world war, providing a pacific political answer to the project of Hitler, who was relying on the methods of war and despotism for overcoming the inadequate size of the national state. On the other, it would have begun to eliminate one of the main causes of war -- national sovereignty -- opening in this way the road to the formation of an effective world government.

Streit's proposal of a union among Atlantic democracies had a number of elements in common with projects elaborated in the period of World War I and even earlier. He nevertheless gave them a new form; he formulated the concept of concentric circles of integration and the idea of the open nucleus.

Union Now had a major impact even before its commercial publication, when Streit met Lord Lothian and Lionel Curtis, the most important and influential British federalists at the time. Thanks to them he obtained his first wave of support. Then, when the book was published commercially, there followed a spontaneous birth of organizations for Union Now, in the US and in several other coutries, which grew into a movement. The pace of events grew quicker. Streit took up the leadership of the movement, and to it he proceeded to dedicate the rest of his life.

During WWII, Federal Union became a "meeting-point" for public figures willing to join forces in support of an extraordinary proposal: to get the United States to take advantage of the war in such a way that mankind could take a leap into a new international order, by entering the conflict as a member of a Union and igniting a process that one day would lead to the United States of the World. Such was the message published in the New York Times ten days after Pearl Harbor and signed by, among others: Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts, John Foster Dulles, later Secretary of State in the Eisenhower Administration, and Grenville Clark, since 1940 Stimson's counselor at the War Department and later one of the founders of the World Federalist Movement. It was the first serious attempt to build international order starting from a union of democracies.

These ideas did not succeed at the time in realizing goals of the scope that they had in view, nevertheless they raised a new approach to the level of an autonomous political perspective and way of thinking. They opened up political space for an integration more profound than the one which was inspired by classical internationalism, and prepared the ground for the Euro-Atlantic policies of the years after 1947.

Today we are facing historic changes: the enlargement of the European Union and of NATO, and the tension between the enlargement of these institutions and their deepening. Despite the fact that these changes are of primary importance for the future of international politics, their significance seems not to be fully grasped. Part of the difficulty is to be explained by the superficial understanding of these issues, whose roots are traced only to the 1960s and often only to 1989. It is necessary, on the contrary, to go back to retrace deeper roots -- the creation of these institutions, the ideas of their founders, and the earlier federalist movements which inspired the founders themselves -- to realize that an enlargement toward the East had been foreseen. The comprehension of these deeper roots can be enlightening in dealing with current problems.

The movement of 1939 for a federation of the democracies, or "Federal Union," represented a true turning point in this regard. It was this movement that developed the conception of a Union of the Western Democracies as an open nucleus which other countries could join, once they had overthrown their dictatorships. The situation nowadays, in several respects, finds its origin in the hopes that were born out of the perspective provided by the 1939 movement. The institutions for international integration created since 1947 incorporated this perspective into the very text of their treaties, giving in this way space to the hopes of the countries not yet included. Accordingly, immediately after the end of the Cold War, the countries of Eastern Europe started to push for becoming a part of the Euro-Atlantic institutions, which were seen as a guarantee for the future of their democracy. While in the Western world, during the later years of the Cold War -- once the rhetoric of liberation of John Foster Dulles had been put aside -- these promises were generally ignored in political discussion and research, in the Eastern countries the expectations generated by the Western institutions continued to live. The hope of joining the West played an unmistakable role in the process of liberation of the 80's, becoming the dominant perspective in the aftermath of 1989 -- and an essential factor in the transformation of the international situation. The tension existing nowadays between enlargement and deepening is the result of the creation in the postwar period of Euro-Atlantic institutions containing a double promise, both born from the ideas of the 1939 movement -- the promise of a deep integration, and of a nucleus open to new members -- without having from the start conferred on these institutions the deep federalist character that had been proposed in 1939.

It is significant that neither academic historiography nor the public discussion on these issues has noticed the roots of the current tension between enlargement and deepening in the ideas developed in 1939.

See also The Atlantic Federal Union Movement Began in March 1939


Federal Union and its Accomplishments: A Sixty-year Retrospective

By Don Dennis, 1990

Don Dennis joined Federal Union in 1945. He served as Executive Director of Federal Union and the Atlantic Union Committee from 1946 to 1952. After 1953 he was Secretary-Treasurer and then Vice President of the Foreign Policy Association, and also Secretary of Federal Union. In 1990 he retired from both positions. He prepared this final message as Secretary to the members of the organization.

Following the death of Organization's charismatic leader, Clarence K. Streit, several years ago, and the observance last year of the fiftieth anniversary of the movement for a federal union of free peoples, some persons have asked, "What have you accomplished? What evidence is there that the organization has achieved anything?

Evidence can be presented on two types of achievements:

1) achievements of goals in organization, education, publicity, fund-raising, etc. and

2) achievements of the Organization's purpose: international order, federation and peace.

Evidence of achievements in the first category have been many through the years. To list a few from just the last year:

· a dozen op-ed pieces in major newspapers including the Christian Science Monitor and the Los Angeles Times.

· numerous letters to the editor in papers such as the New York Times, London Financial Times and The Economist.

· radio interviews, such as three interviews with Ira Straus (on stations in D.C., Colorado and California) on German reunification, three on Russia and the West, and one with Henry Smith III (in New Jersey) on the organization itself.

· meetings with speakers such as the dinner with Senator Eugene McCarthy in Washington, Tom Hudgens' talks to church groups and luncheon clubs, and Ira Straus' talks in academic institutes in Britain, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.

· establishment of a scholarship program via the Mayme and Herbert Frank Educational Trust to enable several post-graduate college students each year to study federalism, with two trial seminar scholarships completed in 1990.

· publication of The Federator, an important quarterly periodical, with substantive articles on such topics as "Integrating the Soviets into the World Order" and "The Revolution in the European Community."

· a 31-person seminar tour of "the USSR in transition," led by Merv Strickler and Henry Smith.

· a co-sponsored series of lecture-seminars on federalism at Temple University with the Center for the Study of Federalism there. The first two featured the Center Director, Prof. Daniel J. Elazar, on "Exploring Federalism," and Prof. C. Lloyd Brown of the University of Windsor, Canada, on "Federal Patterns in the Contemporary World."

· policy suggestions. Many of the organization's ideas and recommendations over the past several years have been sent to every member of Congress, including a plea for ratification of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and suggestions for alleviating the problem of "burden sharing" among the NATO allies.

How Does One Measure Achievement?

Evidence of achievements in the second category is more difficult to ascertain. Our organization cannot by itself establish a federal union of free peoples; it must seek to persuade people and their leaders. The organization seeks to educate in the basic principles of federal union with a view to attaining world peace through a union of free people. Many educational efforts have been pursued, but how does one measure how many people have been educated or what effect that education has had in changing the world in which we leave?

We are engaged here with an idea, a concept of international federation which the organization has sought to keep before the policy makers of the world to guide them toward international federation in their undertakings. So, in seeking to find evidence of achievement one needs to know who knew, when they knew, what they did, and to what extent what they did was motivated by their knowledge of the concept.

Finding evidence is also complicated by the fact that familiarity with the concept of international federation could result in immediate action but is more likely to result in action years or decades later. And when action does take place, it is unlikely a world leader will say "I read about it in Union Now (or saw it in an organization brochure) and decided to pursue this course of action." Thus, we are largely dependent on circumstantial evidence.

A Reasonable Faith

What is the concept of free-world federation? Thomas Jefferson and the delegates to our Constitutional Convention in 1787 devised a new form of government. The concept is that of the people of a number of countries creating an umbrella federal government to regulate relations among them and to deal with problems which none of them can handle separately. It is of a federal government of specified limited powers, all other powers being reserved to the states. It is a government of executive, legislature and judiciary with powers balanced among them. It is a federal government, a republic, elected by the people and passing laws in its area of jurisdiction which apply directly to the people. It is a government which prospers the people by providing a common market and a common currency.

By requiring the executives and legislators to submit themselves to the people for approval at regular intervals, our Constitution-makers gave the people the opportunity to change the government and install new officials without the violence which usually accompanies the overthrow of a king, emperor or despot. By having the officers of our federal government elected by the people, our Constitution-makers provided that government with authority to act in its area of jurisdiction without having to seek the consent of a number of jealous, contending national governments or states. What Clarence Streit and the Federal Union, Inc. movement have done is to apply these principles to international federation.

From Isolation to Internationalism

Let us examine the situation in 1939 when Clarence Streit proposed free-world federation. The US was isolationist and had no strong international commitments. Fifty years later the US is involved in the United Nations, NATO, GATT, IMF, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and many other international organizations.

Did the movement for free world federation have a part in bringing about this change? It is my strong conviction that Federal Union, Inc. made a major contribution to the creation and success of NATO and also, through the Marshall Plan, to the European Community, and modest contributions to the UN, OECD, and other international projects.

First, let us consider the creation in 1946 of the United Nations, a universal forum of sovereign nations, a weak instrument -- but U.S. participation was a stunning reversal of the decision not to join the League of Nations at the close of World War I or of the isolationism of the 1930s (when the Neutrality Acts of 1936-39 went as far as the law could go in keeping the US out of involvement abroad).

Of course, the major influence in leading the US into the United Nations was US involvement in World War II, but Federal Union helped a bit. A newspaper at the time spoke of the Federal Union movement as being the most significant movement (in the early '40s) in getting people to think of US relationships with other countries and of the nature of the world order which would emerge from World War II. Federal Union moved people's thinking toward US participation in an international organization and, by advocating greater international commitments than the United Nations required, made it look reasonable and moderate.

Next we come to the Marshall Plan, that most successful and imaginative program to aid Western Europe, which was largely designed by Will Clayton, Secretary Marshall's Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs, an advocate of federal union and later Vice Chairman of the Atlantic Union Committee. The Marshall Plan laid the foundation for the Organization for European Economic Cooperation, the European Community and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

A Significant Contribution to the Creation and Success of NATO

Finally we come to the creation in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. Here there is solid evidence of Federal Union, Inc. achievement, both in adoption of the Treaty which created NATO and in administration of what has been called "the most successful alliance in history," which maintained the peace for more than forty years and led to the break-up of the greatest threat to world peace, Soviet Communism.

Here again, World War II and the "cold war" with the Soviet Union were the prime factors in the creation of NATO, but Federal Union played a key role in the form and the fact. For ten years prior to the Treaty, the newspapers, magazines, radio waves and lecture platforms had been filled with discussion of Streit's proposal for "a federal union of the democracies of the North Atlantic" as the best defense for the free world. The concept had been discussed with the Secretary of State and with the President over dinner in the White House. All the leaders of the Western world were familiar with the Streit proposal. Streit's book Union Now had been a "Book of the Month" dividend and had been published in many languages in many countries. He had been featured on radio and television, spoken at Madison Square Garden and been on the cover of "Time" magazine.

Early in 1949 Federal Union spawned the Atlantic Union Committee with former Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts as Chairman, former Secretary of War Robert Patterson and former Under-Secretary of State Will Clayton as Vice Chairmen, and Elmo Roper as Treasurer. AUD launched an intensive nationwide campaign for Atlantic Federal Union. This was the climate in which NATO was proposed. The stage had already been set by the Marshal Plan of which Clayton was principal author; the countries participating in the Marshall Plan becoming the basis for participation in NATO.

In the proposed North Atlantic Treaty the US, Canada, and the nations of Western Europe pledged that an armed attack against one was an attack against all. For the first time the US placed its trust in mutual security and promised to fight overseas under certain conditions. Roberts, Clayton and Patterson testified before Congress in support of the NATO Treaty on behalf of the Atlantic Union Committee. The Treaty was ratified. The late Ambassador Theodore C. Achilles, Director of the Division of Western European Affairs at the State Department at the time, said, "If it hadn't been for Union Now (Streit's proposal), I don't think there would have been a NATO Treaty."

Supporting, Democratizing, and Strengthening NATO

The movement for a union of democracies continued to assist NATO, even while freely criticizing its flaws. The Atlantic Union Committee was, in the period 1949-53, the primary organization in the US supporting NATO, but Federal Union's chief mission was to press for federation. The American Council on NATO then became the principal advocate of NATO. It was absorbed by the Atlantic Council in the late 1950s when AUC leaders decided to disband AUC and establish the Atlantic Council of the US to work to reform NATO. The Council attracted many new people and new money to the effort, but within a few years the push for basic reform toward federation was lost, and the Council became essentially an agency for support of NATO with minor reforms. The Council continues its useful role today, functioning with a professional staff of perhaps eight and a budget of nearly a million dollars.

In the early 1950s the Atlantic Union Committee took the initiative to form an Atlantic Assembly, as an annual consultative assembly of parliamentarians from the NATO countries with the goal of providing more democratic legislative supervision of NATO and making recommendations for NATO's future. Legislation for the Atlantic Assembly was written in AUC's office by Livingston Hartley, a volunteer, who had first proposed the idea. Senator Guy Gillette of Iowa, a strong AUC supporter, introduced the legislation in the Senate and it was adopted. A NATO Parliamentarians' Conference first convened in 1955 and was formally established as the North Atlantic Assembly in 1966. Although useful as a consultative group, the Assembly, which continues to meet twice annually, has no power, and the federal union movement has not yet succeeded in developing it into a directly-elected NATO legislature. (Read more about the history of the North Atlantic Assembly.)

In 1959, on the tenth anniversary of NATO, AUC precipitated the holding of an Atlantic Congress in London, getting the US Congress to authorize and fund the US Delegation. Six hundred leaders of NATO nations, including prime ministers, foreign ministers, ambassadors, legislators, editors, businessmen, etc. met to discuss NATO's past and future. The opening session was held in the British Parliament building in the presence of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The Congress made a number of recommendations which were carried out -- such as creation of the Atlantic Institute, which functioned for more than twenty years as a first-class research body on problems in the Atlantic Community -- but other recommendations looking toward federation were never implemented.

A daring try was made in 1962 when, on the initiative of the leaders of the Atlantic Union Committee and Federal Union, ninety leading citizens of NATO nations met in Paris in the Atlantic Convention. The outcome of the convention was the Declaration of Paris. They made recommendations including greater integration of NATO defense forces, establishment of an Atlantic High Court of Justice, further development of the Atlantic Assembly, and establishment of a governmental commission to draw up a charter for a true Atlantic Community. Several of the less daring recommendations were implemented but action toward federation did not develop.

Leaders of AUC had also established in 1954 the Declaration of Atlantic Unity, which backed various measures for greater Atlantic unity in signed declarations which drew much publicity (later, in 1962, 242 leaders from 14 NATO countries signed the Second Declaration of Atlantic Unity to be made public. Signers of the first declaration, issued in 1954, were instrumental in organizing the NATO Parliamentarians' Conference in 1955, the OECD in 1960-61, the Atlantic Institute, and the Atlantic Exploratory Convention in January 1962). The recommendations of the latter included the first five points appearing hereunder). The project worked with about 300 top leaders in the NATO countries as signatories. Those from the United States, for example, included Senators Benton, Bowles, Church, Humphrey (Hubert) and Nixon, and Lewis W. Douglas, W. Averill Harriman, Henry Kissinger, John J. McCloy and Arthur K. Watson.

There is no doubt that NATO was strengthened and aided by the free-world federation movement -- directly, and through agencies and events created by it -- and NATO's success represents in part an important achievement of the movement.

An Inspiration to Many

The concept of moving toward peace by applying the federal union principle internationally to create a federal union of free people is an inspiring one. It inspired people like Paul Findley, Gilbert Lamb, John Whitehead, and Adolph Schmidt in the 1940s and continues to do so today.

Winston Churchill was aware if the idea when he offered "federal union with England" to France in 1940 as France was being invaded by Germany.

Jean Monnet, Robert Shuman, and Konrad Adenauer were aware of the idea when in 1950 they created the European Coal and Steel Community, which later developed into the European Economic Community.

George Lehleitner, known as "the father of Hawaiian and Alaskan statehood," has written that he was inspired to do his years of successful work to extend the US federal union by reading Union Now. He was a member of the Federal Union Board.

John F. Kennedy was aware of the idea when in 1962 he proposed a "partnership" between the United States of America and a United States of Europe. Earlier, after watching the machinations of national leaders, he had written, "What ever became of Union Now?"

Altiero Spinelli was aware of it when he founded the European Federalist Movement in the early 1940s, and had not forgotten anything when he ran for the first directly-elected European Parliament in 1979. In 1981 he persuaded the Parliament to establish a Committee on International Affairs and to draft a Treaty of European Union. The Draft Treaty was presented in 1984. Resistance from Britain, Greece, and Denmark caused it to be diluted, but what was left was adopted as the European Single Act in 1986 -- not political union, but complete economic union by 1992, with monetary union and political union seen as the next steps. The negotiations for monetary and political union began in December 1990.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl was well aware of the federal union concept as he sped the union of the two Germanies. Kohl was a dues-paying member of the International Associaton for a Union of Democracies in the 1970s.

President George Bush is surely aware of the concept of federal union, having responded personally in 1987 to correspondence from Henry Smith III on the subject. As a congressman, on the suggestion of Federal Union supporters, George Bush introduced a resolution for an Atlantic Federal Union - HR 460 - on December 2, 1969. In 1990, President Bush indicates that as the world grows smaller, "our aim must be to ensure democracy's advance, to take the lead in forging peace and freedom's best hope, a great and growing commonwealth of free nations."

Secretary Baker is also surely aware of the concept. He said last December, "We propose that the United States and the European Community work together to achieve a significantly strengthened set of institutional and consultative links... We will create a new Europe on the basis of a New Atlanticism." The proposed new consultative links between the U.S. and the EC were agreed upon and announced in November 1990.

Others continue to be inspired even now by the vision of a federal union of the free. Mihajlo Mihajlov, world-famous Yugoslav philosopher and dissident, endorsed our organization and its goals earlier this year, calling for an international federal government, starting with a common market and common congress of the US and Europe, so the revolutions in Eastern Europe can stabilize on a basis of democracy and avoid the excesses of nationalism.

What Does the Evidence Add Up To?

Most of this evidence is circumstantial, but I contend that it is quite persuasive evidence of AUD achievement. It does not add up to world government or the creation of a federal union of the free, but it shows a United States that has moved from isolationist to internationalist, from "fortress America" to "mutual security," from high tariff to free trade; a country that concedes the necessity of multilateral action to deal with global problems. Political union has been achieved in Germany and has moved close to the top of the agenda in Europe. We are moving toward international federation; we may well be over halfway there already.

A New Period of Change

I was recently struck by the fact several policies -- those of advocating a permanent secretariat and parliamentary assembly for a beefed-up CSCE (Helsinki group) and of inviting the former Soviet bloc countries to have observers at NATO -- sent by Ira Straus to the President and State Department in April, and to all the NATO countries in May -- turned up as recommendations that President Bush made to his allies at the NATO summit in London in July. They were adopted by NATO on July 6. Our organization was the first and strongest proponent of a phased opening of NATO to the East, and while some of the proposals on CSCE were conceived independently in other places as well, we took the lead among American and Atlanticist organizations on this and may well have been a source of the President's proposals.

The organization was on target. Now CSCE is establishing its first actual institutions, and the East Europeans and Soviets are establishing liaisons at NATO. This makes it all the more important that AUD continue to put forward proposals for further reform of NATO, development of CSCE, and CSCE-NATO convergence and eventual merger -- which alone can make full sense of what NATO started in July.

Now, more than at any time since the period 1945-1950, the people and leaders of this country and Europe, both East and West, are open to new ideas and the creation or reform of institutions. A new order for security and cooperation between Europe and America, and East and West, will inevitably emerge in the next several years; the only question is whether it will be a strong, coherent and democratic order, or a weak and haphazard one. Our organization and its predecessors through the years, through books, speakers, magazine articles, radio and television, brought to millions of people the message that it is the people who are sovereign, not the governments, and the people can selectively place powers in those levels of government, including supranational government, which they feel can best deal with the problems and issues which they face.

Our organization must continue to put before the people and their leaders steps which will lead in a desirable direction, and the option and example of that most desirable of choices, a federal union of free peoples.