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CPU's John R. Inman Goes to Europe

From our Archives: 100 for 100

1956

View from the Palais des Nations, Geneva, 1950s. CREDIT: Anders.

Annual Reports used to be a lot more entertaining! This excerpt from an essay by John R. Inman, associate executive director of the Church Peace Union (now known as Carnegie Council), was featured in the Reports of the Directors and the Auditors for the Year 1956.

Here he discusses attending the annual assembly of the World Federation of United Nations Associations in Geneva, where he particularly enjoyed the company of Eleanor Roosevelt; his views on the idea of a European Union, which was still just a dream; some labor practices he saw in Italy; what he learned about the refugee problem in Europe; and finally, what the Europeans he met think of Americans.

[The headers were not in the original.]


Attending the Annual Assembly of the World Federation of United Nations Associations in Geneva

When one has completed a three thousand mile tour of Western Europe by car, one is a little at a loss as to where to begin a report and what to emphasize. I am not unaware of the lack of logic in starting at the end of the two-month experience; but my final week abroad was certainly one of the most significant.

At the suggestion of the chairman of the Executive Committee, Col. Marburg, I was invited by Mr. Clark Eichelberger, Director of the American Association for the United Nations, to be a member of that organization's delegation to the annual assembly of the World Federation of United Nations Associations. The American delegation was a strong one. In order to indicate its diversity and strength, I mention the following members out of the total of fourteen: Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt; Mr. Oscar A. De Lima, Chairman of the Board of the American Association; Col. Charles L. Marburg; Mr. Irving Solomon, formerly chairman of President's committee to study UNESCO; and Mr. Forrest Murden, formerly advisor on economic affairs and technical assistance to the United States Mission to the United Nations.

Meeting September 2-8 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the conference resembled nothing as much as a miniature United Nations. The Federation was at the start of the conference made up of 33 nations. Delegations from such nations as Cuba, Australia, Finland, Indonesia and Belgium indicate the variety of membership. There were as well seven associate members and five associations unaffiliated; thirty-eight observers from non-governmental organizations attended; and the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies were represented by twenty-four officials.

The assembly marked the 10th Anniversary of the Federation. Following the line used at the anniversary meeting of the UN in San Francisco in 1955, a serious attempt was made to keep the meetings non-political and harmonious. This was successfully done though there was some sharp disagreement in the corridors and hotel rooms. I attended all plenary sessions and had an opportunity to observe the various vice-presidents who acted as chairmen. I must remark here on the skill and tact of Col. Marburg, who chaired one of the most delicate sessions, one pregnant with international and organizational political undercurrents.

Throughout this assembly, the U.S. delegation, and I assume others, met privately to determine policy. (Our delegation's leadership seemed to conspire against any member seeing Geneva or its environs. I ruefully report that my sightseeing was limited to the route from the Hotel Bristol to the Hotel Beau Rivage to the Palais des Nations and return.) It would be indiscreet to discuss the substance of our deliberations in the nightly and sometimes twice-daily meetings. It is sufficient to say that the varying views were reconciled, in no small measure because of free and open discussions and the participation of Mrs. Roosevelt, who always remained calm and objective no matter how furious the debate.

To appraise the work of the World Federation of United Nations Associations and the UN in their first ten years, four commissions were formed: Program; Political and Juridicial; Economic and Social; and Education. It was on the latter that I served along with Mr. O. C. Tanner of the Utah Association for the United Nations. The task of this commission was to study the methods of teaching about the UN and its specialized agencies in technical facilities and institutes; the use of audio-visual aids in teaching; and the analysis of the education programs of the Federation and its members. It was in this group that a representative of the European headquarters of UNESCO spoke to me commending the Church Peace Union on its excellent publications. I found it most interesting to participate in this commission, reflecting as it did the great variety of approaches to the problem of education and communication. Methods of adult education that are in common use in the United States are unheard of in many other countries. For example, a fine document on the use of motion pictures as an educational tool for teaching about the UN was presented to the commission by a Western European delegation. Nothing in the document indicated that one could do more with a film than just show it. When I discussed the methodology of film forums, film discussion groups and speaker-film programs, many present seemed to be hearing for the first time about techniques that we consider commonplace in the United States....


Dinner with Eleanor Roosevelt, Discussing "The King and I"

One world about personalities. Five of us were guests of Mrs. Roosevelt at a private dinner party one evening. The guest of honor was Lady La-iad Pibulsonggram of Thailand, the Federation President. The only cloud in an otherwise delightful evening was her feeling the "The King and I" showed the Siamese in a slightly ridiculous light. I am not sure we convinced her that the play and motion picture was the best possible Thai propaganda to which the American people could have been exposed. Lady Pibulsonggram brought all the charm and grace that the Southeast Asian women possess in such abundance to the meetings she chaired and the functions she attended. [Editor's note: Lady Pibulsonggram's husband Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsonggram was prime minister of Thailand at the time—a virtual military dictator who sided with the Japanese during WWII . His government banned "The King and I" in 1956, the same year as this meeting, and it is still banned today, as is the 1999 remake.]

Other outstanding international figures at the assembly were the Honorary President Paul-Boncour, father of the Federation and an exemplar of French oratory at its best; the Rt. Hon. Earl Atlee, who was applauded for his logic, his wit and his brevity; and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who received the admiration and respect of all regardless of their nationality....


The Idea of a European Union and Readaptation in Northern Italy 

The idea of a European Union has long intrigued me. Since various members of the Church Peace Union have also expressed interest in this promising movement, I discussed it at every opportunity. Everyone with whom I talked had an enthusiasm for the development of a European Community. This was the only optimistic note on international affairs that seemed to prevail in France. Not only has the solution of the Saar problem lessened Franco-German distrust, but the successful working of the European Coal and Steel Community has proved the benefits of cooperative effort. Most people realize that the perfection of a common market and eventual political federation offer Western Europe a chance not only to withstand the threat of communism but also to gain a measure of independence from United States policy.

The common man as well as the politically sophisticated realize the promise that European unity holds. Indeed the worker feels the effects of the limited steps already taken. One of the major economic problems of Europe is the tendency to retain obsolete methods of production in order to keep a high level of employment. But as Jean Monnet has said, "The Future of European economy depends essentially upon the removal of this discrepancy between the desire for stability and the need for progress." The word used in Europe to describe the process that M. Monnet deems vital is readaptation.

I had the opportunity of seeing readaptation in process in northern Italy. Between the beautiful Lake Garda and industrail Milan is located the second oldest steelworks in Italy, Darfo. Darfo is squeezed in between mountains and rights. On its scant 14 acres it has hydro-electric plants, a steel alloy plant, and until recently a steel rolling mill. Its cramped quarters and antiquated equipment made it impossible to compete with new plants in Genoa. The mills closed down threatening the livelihood of 360 workers. Most of the employees are family men, many with 4 or 5 children. They faced the prospect of trying to live on unemployment compensation of $3.50 a week per family. This meager allowance would have continued only for six months.

The High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community recently signed with Italy an agreement on a 50-50 basis to make available $11 million for readaptation of steel plants and employment of steel workers. Money from this fund saved the workers of Darfo. A large combine that was planning a new mill was asked to look into Darfo and see if a mill could be built nearby and employ the 360 desperate laborers. Five miles away at Costa Volpino, a suitable site was found. A plant to employ about 700 men is almost completed. The most interesting fact is that the plant is being built by the men of Darfo—all 360 of whom will be employed in the new mill. After the employment of these men, the balance of the labor force needed may be recruited. The workers who could not be hired for building received generous interim allowances calculated on their previous wage.

When one drives between Darfo and Costa Volpino, a distance of five miles, one is impressed by the myriad of motor scooters. There is a ready explanation. The scooters are the commuting vehicles of the workers between home and mill. An enlightened management advanced $260 to each employee desiring to purchase one.

The Refugee Problem

One of the long-standing concerns of the Church Peace Union has been the refugee problem. In 1920, the Union established the American Committee on Religious Rights and Minorities. It was active for twenty years and much of its interest was in the area of refugee and displaced people. Since that time, periodic pronouncements of the Board regarding United States immigration policies demonstrate the continuing interest of the Church Peace Union in this human problem.

I had been told before going abroad that significant work was being done by a voluntary organization named Committee of the Inter-Movement of Refugees (CIMADE). It was founded in France in 1939. The president is Pasteur Marc Boegner.

The organization is Protestant, although it helps members of any faith or creed who are in need. I was told by the staff that aiding refugees was a natural kind of Job that Protestants would assume, whereas some other religious groups are not oriented so directly that way. They hastened to add that this might be because Protestants are such a minority in France—perhaps 15% of the total population. However, Jews and Protestants in the Committee had worked very closely together and many of the refugees, particularly in the early days of World War II, were Jewish. It was not difficult to resettle French Protestants and Roman Catholics in France; but after this problem had been met with some success, the camps were filled with Jews with no place to go. One of the early jobs of the Committee was to get entrance for Jews in to friendly or safe territories such as Switzerland. This they were able to do. There was no apparent objection to the Committee's activities on the part of the French Governments before or after the fall of Free France. After the liberation, refugees remained, of course, who refused to be repatriated; refugees from Eastern Germany, the Soviet Union, Austria, and other places. In addition, there was a flood of former internees of German concentration camps that came into France. These included all types with all kinds of standards; and I was told qite frankly that it was not a simple problem to help these people because many of them were all but incapable of rehabilitation, were people of low intelligence, were people who had learned, particularly in youth, that they had to steal in order to survive. So there was a tremendous job of rehabilitation to do among all groups. To do this job, the Committee was roughly made up ito four divisional activities. One concerned placement or resettlement. The second concerned the establishment of social clubs where groups could come together for dancing or folk dancing or simply conversation in passably decent surroundings. The third general area of activity is education and welfare. For instance, people desiring to emigrate to the United States should have an elementary knowledge of English and this they attempted to teach. Welfare I think is a term which is self-explanatory. The final category is religious education. I was told that the attempt was made to give these people a chance to ground themselves in the religious faith they favored.

The task of an organization concerned with displaced persons and refugees in France is a particularly difficult one. It is made very difficult by the selective qualifications imposed on immigration by United states laws. In other words, our laws are so strict and stringent that, in effect, we take the cream of the crop of refugees and displaced persons; and France, who does not have such restrictive laws, is left a good many times with the group most difficult to assimilate. The French Government did take many of the refugees out of the Committee's camps, but they were removed for the most part to industrial areas where they could work in the factories and because France had an acute housing problem, placed in crowded barracks, which were, to say the least, unsatisfactory surroundings. The Committee attempted also to help the people who had been settled in barracks with respect to education and social affairs and religion.

The refugee problem continues. I was surprise to learn that one of the countries from which a large number of refugees come is Yugoslavia. More recently, there has been a fairly large influx from Algiers. At present the Committee is setting up a new center for these refugees in Marseilles. More recently, there has been a fairly large influx from Algiers. At present the Committee is setting up a new center fro these refugees in Marseilles. I asked about the work of UNRRA and the International Refugee Organization before 1951. I was told that both had done a good job although there were always difficult problems in handling a refugee problem on a mass basis. Both UNRRA and the IRO suffered from this natural handicap. Recently volunteer organizations of the Protestant, Jewish and Catholic groups have carried the main load and have done a magnificent job. One of the reasons they have done an outstanding job is that they are able to handle each refugee on an individual basis.

Despite the earlier recorded remarks critical of the U.S. Immigration policies, there was praise for the insistence of the State Department that before an emigre was received by the United States, a job must be guaranteed to that person. Great stress was laid upon the fact that refugees who were resettled had a much better chance and were much happier if they went to a country in which churches played an active part in the social and cultural life of the community. The Committee Secretariat felt very strongly that the refugee betin settled, for instance, in the United States leaned heavily on the personal and the institutional help, sympathy and advice of religious individuals or religious groups. It was pointed out that in Latin America where this pattern, according to the Committee, did not hold true, emigres experienced a very difficult time in being assimilated into the community. This was laid directly at the door of the Church in Latin America and its failure to assist the individual emigre.

Today, about 1,375 emigres in the Committee's camp await resettlement. About 65% of these, if we can judge from past history, will eventually go to the United States. Australia also takes a good many, perhaps as much as 15-20%. During 1956, it is expected that about 1,400 will be settled permanently in new homes by the Committee. I did ask where the major share of the funds came from; as I suspected, the Church World Service was one of the chief supporters along with denominational groups and individual churches. The two denominational groups singled out as being particularly helpful in their support were the Protestant Episcopal Church and the Baptist Church....


"In Brooklyn, Every Night is a Party!"

There are many interviews and conversations on which I might comment. I talked to literally hundreds of people. Almost without exception, I found them friendly. They are appreciative of what the United States has done for them; they know that the Marshall Plan saved their countries; they seem to have not necessarily respect, but at least affection for the "well-meaning America"; and of course, they envy us. As an Italian waiter in Lorvorno put it, "I live to come to the United States." "In Brooklyn, every night is a party!"