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The Emery Reves Saga

By Garry Davis

With the exception of a few students in peace studies, the present generation may never have heard of Emery Reves. His book, Anatomy of Peace, published in 1945, is, unhappily, out of print. Yet this classic political treatise became a runaway best seller in the late 1940s. (See page 16 for excerpts.)

Albert Einstein called it "the political answer to the atomic bomb." Reader's Digest printed a condensed version over three issues. Pocket Books published a full-size edition costing only a dollar and aimed at a mass audience.

Senators William Fulbright and Claude Pepper, along with other luminaries such as Mortimer Adler, Albert Lasker and Thomas Mann, signed the following statement which appeared in the New York Times and 50 other leading newspapers on October 10, 1945: "At this anxious moment of our history a book has been published which expresses clearly and simply what so many of us have been thinking. That book is The Anatomy of Peace by Emery Reves. We urge American men and women to read this book, to think about its conclusions, to discuss it with neighbors and friends, privately and publicly."

Orville Prescott of the New York Times wrote: "The logic of The Anatomy of Peace is simple and eloquent.... It might be a good thing for the world if ten or twenty million persons read and discovered it." The Associated Press, through 1600 newspapers, declared, "Few books about the dangers of war are as stirring as this one about the causes of peace."

It was adopted as a textbook at Harvard, Yale and Columbia Universities. It became a subject for sermons in churches and synagogues and a topic of lectures in countless civic organizations.

Over the next several years, it was published in 25 languages in more than 30 countries. When I met President Václav Havel in Prague several years ago, he told me he knew all about Reves' book because his father had translated it into Czech when Václav was 16.

In essence, the book maintained that world peace required world law. After an incisive denunciation of the "feudalistic" nation-state and "nation-centric" thinking, Reves made a convincing argument for democratic world government...right now!

At the outset, he likened his era's dominant political outlook to the Ptolemaic period when the earth was considered the center of the universe and every celestial body, including the sun, was thought to revolve around it.

Today, as we arrive at the third millennium, with the earth being exploited almost to death by an irrational species destined for self-destruction, Emery Reves' book remains as relevant as ever. With superb writing skill, he demonstrates that only globalist thinking and action can bring about world peace.

In a postscript written after the atomic bombs had exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Reves asserted that "world government is not an `ultimate goal' but an immediate necessity.... There is no `first step' toward world government. World government is the first step." Outlining "what each person must do," he counseled that "we have to get to work at once."

What actual work did he prescribe for creating the world government he insisted was necessary for survival?

Here begins the mystery.

First, Reves brilliantly and painstakingly unmasks the failures of capitalism, socialism, religion, nation-state feudalism, internationalism, treaties and diplomacy, self-determination, and collective security (that is, the United Nations). Next, he explains the real meaning of sovereignty. In the end, however, Reves fails to urge a popular revolt against nationalism, or even a personal pledge of fidelity to world government.

Instead, he invests his political hopes in a new and rather effete organization, the Movement for World Federal Government. This was a loose coalition of mostly white, middle-class groups whose only political philosophy was that nations should "get together" to form a federal world government.

It was a fatal compromise on Reves' part.

The Anatomy of Peace blasts nation-centered thinking as the main obstacle to world peace. Only global or holistic thinking will suffice if peace is to be achieved, he argues.

"We cannot have democracy in a world of independent sovereign nation-states," he wrote, "because democracy means the sovereignty of the people." Having already exposed the nation-state as an anachronism and having shown a step-by-step approach to world government to be futile, Reves' "active" strategy consists solely of national (not world) citizens electing representatives and "delegating to them the power to put into practice the new principles."

Reves concluded his book by asking this question: "How willing are we to fight for the dissemination in schools, churches, meetings, the press, the movies and on the radio, of a new faith, a new political outlook, which cannot take practical shape until enough people understand it, believe in it and want it?"

In short, Reves, like those who lauded him, never advises readers to "create" a world government as world citizens, despite his acknowledgment that "New Yorkers are citizens of the city of New York and of the state of New York and of the United States of America. But they are also citizens of the world."

Take note that Reves did not claim that those lower-level citizens would become "citizens of the world" only when a world government was legally instituted with a ratified constitution. In his view, world citizenship already had an authentic civic status. But--and here is the missing link--the claim of world citizenship requires an exercise of individual inalienable sovereign right. Without the individual's sanction and expressed political will, world citizenship remains a flight of fancy.

Dr. James Bill, director of the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies at William & Mary College, considers Reves' book a "powerful analysis of what's wrong." What's lacking, Bill adds, is a suggestion of "what you do to get from point A to point B--to that rule of law."

One of the book's greatest shortcomings in terms of political philosophy is its denial of the individual's activist role and its retreat to the bureaucratic fallacy--that electing representatives to a world constitutional convention will somehow bring about world government.

Even more damaging to Reves' entire thesis of global-centered thinking, he reverts to viewing nations themselves as the primary actors. "Once the process of inter-national integration starts," he writes, "its attraction will be so great that more and more nations will join until finally...we shall arrive at a federal world government." In this way, Emery Reves missed the core concept of the sovereignty of the people.

The word "federal" in the context of world government assumes the perpetuation of the nation-state system, not its demise. Why did Reves, who brilliantly revealed the myth of nation-statehood as humanity's mortal enemy, reverse himself in his postscript to The Anatomy of Peace? And why did the most prominent leaders of that period, who enthusiastically endorsed the book, not follow through with his main thesis?

The world federalists, as ratifiers of the nation-state construct, beseech that very same anachronistic system to form a "federal" world government, enjoining their national leaders to do the job. But how could world government ever evolve through the efforts of nation-state citizens? Expecting "sovereign" states to give way to a higher sovereignty remains totally unrealistic, as well as a flagrant contradiction of the concept of sovereignty Reves so persuasively explained.

Wendy Reves, his widow, confided to me that her husband grew sorely disappointed in the world federalist movement. "Emery gave them up in the end," she wrote. "He had become very disappointed! He felt that his message had been forgotten by the world!"

When I asked journalist Frank Shatz, a close friend of Emery and Wendy Reves, why the author of The Anatomy of Peace had supported the world federalists in the late `40s, Shatz replied that Reves was essentially conservative and practical-minded. "He thought that the world's leading politicians, already in power, were the key to promoting world government," Shatz said. I replied that the only true inheritors of Reves' thesis are those individuals who claim world citizenship. Reves' apparent about-face, I added, left his readers confused and impotent.

Amply rewarded monetarily through the book's sales, Reves himself went on to other things. After breaking with the federalists, why didn't he turn to the world citizenship movement right at his doorstep? That remains an enigma. He and Wendy Reves were in Paris in 1949 when our movement, headquartered there, was gaining popular as well as intellectual and political support throughout Europe. (See WCN Vol. XI, No 1.)

Albert Einstein was one important link. After endorsing The Anatomy of Peace in 1945, Einstein likewise supported my own claim to world citizenship.

As a principal literary "father" of World Government, Reves' recognition of our movement at that critical moment in history might have made the difference between slow evolution and immediate, spectacular success.

Who was this complex man?

He was born Emery Revesz in 1904 in the Hungarian village of Bacsfoldvar. A first cousin of Sir Georg Solti, who would become the conductor of the Chicago Symphony, Reves was an accomplished pianist.

After study at the universities of Berlin and Paris, he earned a doctorate in political economy at the University of Zurich in 1936. In 1930, he founded the Cooperation Press Service, that published essays on current events from leading statesmen and distributed them through a network that grew to more than 400 newspapers in 70 countries. Reves' greatest publishing success was Winston Churchill's memoirs.

Inspired mainly by his wife, Wendy, a glamorous New York model, Reves became a world-class art collector as well as a major investor in Europe's postwar reconstruction. From their palatial villa on the French Cote d'Azur, they entertained the illustrious personages of the day, including Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo, Somerset Maugham, the Duke of Windsor, French President Rene Coty and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

In the past two issues, World Citizen News has listed over 100 prominent supporters of world government. Emery Reves' name, of course, is among them. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people have registered as World Citizens with the world government that Reves himself insisted was a "first step" to world peace. Ironically, neither Reves nor most of the names listed by WCN recognized the only World Government when it was declared over 40 years ago.

Nonetheless, Emery Reves left us a rich heritage. Along with his classic book, we have the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies at William & Mary College, in Williamsburg, Virginia. In addition, Wendy Reves donated the couple's fabulous art collection to the Dallas Museum of Art after her husband's death in 1981. There, it is exquisitely displayed in an exact replica of the villa, "La Pausa."
There is also another part of the heritage--one that is entirely in keeping with Reves' dream of world peace through law. I refer to the World Government of World Citizens.

It was Reves' passion for truth that impelled me to renounce my allegiance to the "feudal-nation" in 1948. This led to the declaration of World Government in 1953, after I had received a popular mandate from 750,000 fellow world citizens.

As humanity approaches the next millennium, Emery Reves may be hailed by future historians as a "Jagat Guru," or World Teacher. That depends, however, on the extent to which the World Government of World Citizens evolves to assure peace, freedom and well-being for everyone on this, our home planet.

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