Camus’ Neither Victims nor Executioners: International Democracy and Dictatorship

The Power of Nonviolence Writings by Advocates of Peace The eleventh chapter of The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace  contains Albert Camus‘ 1946 essay Neither Victims nor Executioners. This week we discuss the fifth part of the essay, International Democracy and Dictatorship. Camus wrote this 16-page essay as World War II had just ended, and it seemed as if the Soviet Union and the United States were dragging the planet into the horrors of a third world war. Eleven years later, he would win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Camus returns to the theme that the world is interconnected and the national and the personal level:

There is no suffering, no torture anywhere in the world which does not affect our everyday lives.

This again brings Camus to the need for an “international revolution” in order to bring about a better world: He asks what the paths there are::

I see only two, and these two between them define our ultimate alternative.

The first is imposition of a world order by the US or USSR.  He does not endorse this path for several reasons.  As a Frenchman and a Mediterranean, he fears the monoculture this hegemony would create.  Even more frightening would be the scope of the war, perhaps nuclear, that would be required to create singular dominance.

the sure death of millions of men for the hypothetical happiness of the survivors seems too high a price to pay.

Camus take to task the Marxist perspective that the loss of life is worth the end result.  He correctly puts Marx in his time, finding that Marx did not foresee the level of the massive loss of life due to weapons rising to the level of mass destruction.

As before, he rejects this course of action:

Whatever the desired end, however lofty and necessary, whether happiness or justice or liberty – the means employed to attain it represent so enormous a risk and are so disproportionate to the slender hopes of success, that, in all sober objectivity, we must refuse to run this risk.

Camus’ other choice is international democracy, but he finds that the UN is easily ignored by its powerful member states.  He, therefore, finds that we are faced with an “international dictatorship” instead of a a “world parliament.

Since we do not have such a parliament, all we can do now is to resist international dictatorship; to resist on a world scale; and to resist by means which are not in contradiction with the end we seek.

Again, I see a hope in the fruition of his dream in the Occupy movement which spans every continent.

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