Read this article to learn about the status od the league of nations after the First World War!
The members of the League of Nations included countries from all continents. However, the League was dominated by major European powers and thus its fate was ultimately decided by them. At the time of its formation, it had forty-four members.
They included most of the countries of Europe, except Russia and Germany; most of the countries of Latin America; Iran, Japan, China, Thailand and India (which was then still a colony) represented Asia; the Union of South Africa, Ethiopia and Liberia were from Africa; and Australia and New Zealand.
The League had an Assembly, a Council and a Secretariat. In the Assembly, all the member-countries were represented, and each country had one vote. The Council initially had nine members out of whom five—Britain, France, Italy, Japan and USA—were to be permanent and four non-permanent members.
The US did not join the League and her place on the Council was taken by Germany when she was admitted in 1926. Germany’s admission came after a conference held in October 1925 at Locarno, Switzerland, and attended by seven European nations, including Germany, but excluding the Soviet Union.
At this conference, a pact was signed guaranteeing the existing frontiers between Germany and France, and Germany and Belgium. These three countries undertook not to commit aggression against each other. By 1928, all countries of Europe had become members of the League of Nations. The Soviet Union was admitted as a member in 1934. By then both Japan and Germany had walked out of the League of Nations.
The League was dominated by the major European powers, notably Britain and France. It was able to resolve minor disputes between small states but it proved a dismal failure when disputes between big powers were involved. Some of the main functions the League performed were to prevent aggression, maintain the independence and territorial integrity of member-states, and preserve peace.
The League’s dismal record in this regard was a reflection of the policy of appeasement which the big powers had adopted towards aggression by fascist and militarist powers. The Covenant of the League provided for effective means to prevent aggression. These means were, however, not applied.
The Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the subsequent setting up by her of a puppet government, called the Manchukuo, were the first major acts of naked aggression after the First World War. The League refused to recognise the Manchukuo government but it did not ask Japan to restore the pre-1931 position in Manchuria and end her aggression. Japan left the League of Nations and nothing further was heard of the matter. A few years later, Japan launched a massive attack on China.
In October 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia with an army of 600,000 soldiers. In November, the League announced limited economic sanctions against Italy, but in May 1936, despite stiff resistance by the Ethiopians, Ethiopia, a member of the League of Nations, was annexed by Italy.
In July 1936, even the limited sanctions applied earlier were withdrawn. The countries dominating the League showed total unwillisngness to resist acts of aggression. USA, which was not a member of the League, followed the same policy.
The only country which advocated the use of sanctions to stop aggression and the formation of an anti-fascist front comprising Britain, France and herself, was the Soviet Union. The position adopted by the Soviet Union was supported by anti-fascist opinion the world over.
However, the Western countries’ appeasement of fascism and aggression was based on the belief that fascist countries’ aggression would be directed against the Soviet Union. During the next three years, the world slowly relapsed into another world war. In October 1936, Italy and Germany signed an agreement on political cooperation. This is known as the Rome-Berlin Axis.
In November 1937, Italy joined the Anti-Comintern Pact which Germany and Japan had signed in November 1936. In 1937, Italy left the League of Nations. Even before the Rome-Berlin Axis came into being, Germany and Italy had already started cooperating with a view to installing a fascist dictatorship in Spain.