What are the causes for the failure of the League of Nations?


Causes of its Failure:

The League of Nations was the first major attempt as an international organization of state to maintain peace and promote international co-operation. But it failed. Some of the causes of its failure are briefly mentioned as follows:—

1. The political background of Europe at the time of the birth of the League was not very conducive to a peace organization. World War I had been fought ostensibly to make the world safe for democracy, to end all future wars, etc. But essentially it was an imperialist war for the division and re-division of colonies.

The major powers namely the allied and the associated powers were, no doubt, victorious but peace as it emerged was an imperialist peace. The secret treaties among major powers were concluded at the very outset.


The League of Nations was a part of the Versailles peace treaty. But men like Clemenceau (French P.M.) and Lloyd George never wanted its success. Clemenceau actually ridiculed the idea and said to Wilson, “I like your League of Nations. I like it very much but I do not believe in it,” Thus the imperialist character of the peace handicapped the League throughout its history.

2. At no stage of its history did the League represent the world balance of forces. The U.S.A. never became its member and Russia stepped in only in 1934. Thus its effectiveness as an instrument of the world peace suffered.

3. In absence of Russia and America, it was actually dominated by the Anglo-French powers and became an instrument of their policy in Europe and since these powers were not interested in peace so much as in maintenance of their imperialist domination and destruction of Soviet Union, the League of Nations never had a chance to succeed.

4. The League of Nations was founded on the principle of unani of all the members except those who were party to a dispute. Thus every single member including the smallest had the right to veto. This system had two very important consequences.


(i) A small power could very irresponsibly hamstring the League in its action against an aggressor. For instance aid to Republican Spain and condemnation of Fascist attack against Spain was prevented by a hostile vote of Portugal. The small powers who could not have the responsibil­ity of maintaining world peace, could yet wreck it.

(ii) The big powers very often used small powers as stalking horses from behind the veto of a small member and thus escaped responsibility for a particular decision before their own people and world public opinion.

5. The world was divided into two social systems-the capitalistic and socialistic. The absence of Russia created a very real danger that the League might be used against the new socialist state. Unfortunately this danger proved to be real. The League which condoned fascist aggressions one after the other, wasted no time in violating its very principles by expelling Soviet Union on the question of Finland.

6. The spheres of activity of the Council and the Assembly were not clearly defined. It led to confusion of responsibility.


7. The responsibility for maintenance of peace was not securely placed anywhere. The Council of the League which alone could shoulder it was burdened with other responsibilities regarding minority treaties, mandatory territories, etc.

Despite these flaws, the League could have been made an instrument of peace if the powers dominating had wished it so. The articles of the covenant of the League provided for economic and military sanctions against the aggressors. The League failed because the leading powers never wanted a durable peace.

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