How successful was the League of Nations in the 1920s? Discuss.
The League of Nations was an international organization, created after first world war, whose main purpose was to guarantee peace in Europe. In the following essay, I will mention the League’s main achievements and failures in order to establish a profound vision of its role in the 20th century.
The League succeeded in solving countries disputes over borders. For instance, Aaland Islands which was a dispute between Finland and Sweden over them, and they took it to the League. The League proposed they should belong to Finland due to the measure on the distance between the countries and the islands. Sweden accepted.
Secondly, I will explain Upper Silesia. Poland and Germany wanted Upper Silesia so they took the problem to the League. The League proposed a Plebiscite, a popular vote, between the people in the region. Finally, the territory was divided into a German side and a Polish side.
This was a success since it achieved the aim “encourage countries to cooperate, especially in business and trade” that was arranged by the League.
The last success was in Bulgaria. In October 1925, Greek troops invaded Bulgaria after an incident in the border where some Greeks soldiers were killed. The League demanded both sides stand their forces down and Greek forces withdrew from Bulgaria, and sent observers to assess the situation. She judged in favor of the Bulgarians. So, Greece had to pay $45,000 in compensation and was threatened with sanctions if it did not follow the ruling. Greeks obeyed, but they did complain that there seemed to be one rule for the large states and another for the smaller ones.
The League of Nations had a wider task than simply waiting for disputes and hoping to solve them. It worked out in five different areas: refugees, transport, health, working conditions and social problems.
Regarding refugees, the League of Nations took care of them and made sure that they were back in their homeland with work and chances for a good life. To make this possible, the League introduced the “Nansen Passport”, a document that allowed people who were stateless or were deprived of their national passport, to freely enter another country. However, the Refugee Committee was constantly short of funds and the Nansen Passport was raising donations during that time.
In second place, I will talk about League of Nations role in transport. The organization recommended to mark shipping lanes and to produce an international Highway Code, in order to organize road users and make the transport system simpler. Furthermore, this code helped to keep a better control of who was passing by.
Considering its intervention in health, the League of Nations achieved its most important tasks since it created three institutes: In Singapore, London and Denmark that helped to develop vaccines and fight dreaded diseases like leprosy or malaria, quite common in those times. In addition, a global campaign was made to exterminate mosquitoes and and yellow fever.
Taking into consideration its role in working conditions, her main achievements were banning poisonous white lead from paint, limiting working hours for children and adults and exposing abuses. Nevertheless, not all members adopted the changes, because they thought it would increase their industrial costs. Changes were not even adopted by the League, because even if she wanted to, it didn’t have enough funds.
Finally, the League of nations got involved in social problems, such as drug trafficking, prostitution and slavery. The League blacklisted 4 large companies involved in illegal drug trade. Regarding slavery, the League of nations freed 200.000 slaves in British-owned Sierra Leone. She also helped the workers, lowering the rate of death workers from 50% to 4%. These workers were forced to build a railway in Africa. They were mistreated and forced to do this harsh work. Moreover, she organized raids against slaves owners and traders in Burma. However, in some places the League wasn’t able to remove injustice, in those cases they left records providing information on the problems unsolved.
Consequently, they succeeded in their aim “improve the living and working conditions of people in all parts of the world” that the countries proposed to achieve when the League was created.
In my last paragraph, I am going to develop the failures of the League.
Firstly, I am going to explain Corfu.
An Italian general, Tellini, had to supervise the sorting out the borders between Greece and Albania. Tellini was killed. For that reason, the Italian leader Mussolini blamed the Greek government for the assassination and bombed Corfu. Because of this, Greece they asked the League for help. In the end, Greece had to apologise and pay compensation directly to Italy and Mussolini withdrew from Corfu. Murderers were never found, but they suppose that the Greeks killed him because of favoring the Albanian side. The League was criticised after this incident and they made all this mess, and they did not even complete their objective, sorting out the borders. Moreover, one of the most important countries of the League saw invading as a way of gaining money and power, when one of their aims was to remain peace. And, worst of all, the League was not in conditions to stand over her.
Secondly, I will explain Vilna, the capital of Lithuania. Poland invaded it, as Polish people were living there. Lithuania took the problem to the League. They gave moral condemnation to Poland, but Poland didn’t obey. Because of this, the League should have stop trading with it, but she didn’t, because she was afraid that Poland would join with Germany and, again, the League was not in conditions to fight with this powerful country.
The Geneva Protocol created by Britain and France in 1924 did not succeed either. Geneva was located in Switzerland, it was a financial center global-city. This protocol, claimed that if 2 members of the League had a dispute they would have to allow the her to solve the problem and accept its decisions. Before the plan was applied, there was an election in Britain. But the new conservative government refused to sign the protocol, because they were concerned that Britain may have been forced to agree with something that wasn’t one of her concerns. So, if one of the most important countries of the League refused to sign it, no one would. France and Britain hoped this protocol would strengthen the League, but instead, it weakened it since it made her more explicit.
But its main failure was in bringing about disarmament. One of their aims was “to encourage nations to disarm”. The League tried and failed in this. This affected Germany because she had been forced to disarm and the other countries were not prepared to do it, since they didn’t want to be the first to disarm, because it would make them vulnerable. Therefore, they did not achieve this aim. On the other hand, this failure was not so serious because they made international agreements, created in Europe with the influence of the United States of America.
In conclusion, the League of Nations, was successful, in three of the aims: discourage aggression, encourage countries to cooperate, and improving the ways of living and working. Like I developed in her achievements and successes. On the other hand, it had failures: the only country disarmed was Germany, took bad decisions, like the one in Corfu and by 1937 it became irrelevant and ignored even by its main members.