Sunday, October 3, 2010

Julian Huxley, humanism, UNESCO & the USSR

The evolution of a UNESCO "philosophy" was yet another source of fear for the Soviet Union. Julian Huxley as Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the first session of the General Conference attempted to outline the basic ingredients of a UNESCO "philosophy" which he hoped might serve as a general frame for the Organization's program.

Huxley's philosophy for the organization was what he called "world scientific humanism"—"humanism" because UNESCO was concerned with peace and human welfare; "world" because it had to do with all the peoples of the world and with individuals on the basis of equality of all; "scientific" because science provided "most of the material basis for human culture" and because science needed to be integrated with intellectual and spiritual values. A more controversial aspect of this philosophy was the element of evolution which its author sought to inject into it. In the opinion of Julian Huxley this philosophy must be evolutionary because the theory of evolution had indicated man's place in nature and his ultimate relationship with the rest of the universe.

The Yugoslav delegate, Mr. Rubnikar was on hand to present the dominant communist doctrine. In his view the adoption of an international official philosophy would "lead to the enslavement of thought and of the spirit of creation and form an arbitrary obstacle to the spread of culture". He branded such an approach as "a kind of philosophical esperanto". An adoption of the Huxley approach would be tantamount to a rejection of the marxist dialectical materialism and the mere fact that an anti-dialectical materialist philosophy was being strongly proposed for the UNESCO was enough to raise doubts in the minds of Kremlin foreign policy makers as to the desirability of Soviet participation in such an Organization. However, it was undoubtedly consoling to the Kremlin to note that the Huxley approach was not adopted as representing the official view of the UNESCO, but it was equally disquieting to Moscow to think that countries with liberal democratic views almost dominated the scene inside the Organization.

SOURCE: Osakwe, Christopher. The Participation of the Soviet Union in Universal International Organizations: A Political and Legal Analysis of Soviet Strategies and Aspirations Inside ILO, UNESCO and WHO (Leiden: Sijthoff, 1972), pp. 134-135.

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