Tag: <span>Emmanuel Mounier</span>

Alexandre Marc Rapprochement of Cultures.

Alexandre Marc: Con-federalism, Cultural Renewal and Trans-frontier Cooperation

Featured Image: Through the Russian Revolution. By Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons.

Alexandre Marc ; (19 January 1904 – 22 February 2000) was born as Alexandre Markovitch Lipiansky in Odessa, Russia in 1904.  He later simplified his name by dropping Lipiansky; (which his sons have reclaimed) and modifying his father’s first name to Marc; which he used as a family name.  His father was a Jewish banker and a non-communist socialist. 

Alexandre was a precocious activist. He was influenced by his early reading of F. Nietzsche; especially Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  He started a non-conformist student journal; while still in secondary school during the Russian Revolution; asking for greater democracy and opposed to Marxist thought.  This led to death threats made against him by the Communist authorities.

Also sprach Zarathustra. Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen. In drei Theilen. By Unknown authorUnknown author, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Forerunners of the Nazi Movement

The family left Russia in 1919 for France; but not before Alexandre had seen some of the fighting and disorder of the Russian civil war.  These impressions left a deep mark; and he was never tempted by the Russian communist effort as were other intellectuals in France; who had not seen events close up. 

During part of the 1920s; Marc was in Germany studying philosophy; where intellectual and philosophical debates were intense after the German defeat in the First World War; and the great difficulties of the Weimar Republic.  He saw the forerunners of the Nazi movement. 

Anti-Nazi German Youth

Marc was always one to try to join thought and action; and he had gone back to Germany in 1932 to try to organize anti-Nazi German youth; but ideological divisions in Germany were strong.  The Nazi were already too well organized and came to power the next year. Marc; having seen the destructive power of Nazi thought; was also never tempted by Right Wing or Fascist thought.

Seeing the destructive potential of both Communist and Fascist thought and sensing the deep crisis of Western civilization; Marc was looking for new values that would include order, revolution, and the dignity of the person.

Friedrich Nietzsche, circa 1875. By Friedrich Hartmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

L’Ordre Nouveau

  There was no ready-made ideology; which included all these elements; though two French thinkers — difficult to classify — did serve as models to Marc and to Denis de Rougemont and some of the other editors of L’Ordre Nouveau: Charles Péguy and  J Proudhon . Marc wrote a book on the importance of Péguy at the start of the Second World War. 

Marc was living in Aix-en-Provence at the time; and the book was published in still unoccupied Marseilles in 1941. He also met in Paris Nicolas Berdiaeff, Jacques Maritain and Gabriel Marcel.  It was from these meetings that the personalist doctrine of L’Ordre Nouveau was born. The rallying cry of personalism was “We are neither collectivists nor individualists but personalists …the spiritual first and foremost, then the economic, with politics at the service of both of them”.

Denis de Rougemont. By Erling Mandelmann / photo©ErlingMandelmann.ch.

once a Jew, always a Jew

In 1943 when all of France was occupied, he was in danger of arrest both for his views and his Jewish origins. Although in 1933; Marc had become a Roman Catholic in part under the influence of intellectual Dominicans; for the Nazi occupiers — as well as for some of the French Vichy government — “once a Jew, always a Jew”. Therefore he left for Switzerland where he was able to study the working of Swiss federalism with its emphasis on democracy at the village and city level.  He was also able to meet other exiles from all over Europe who had managed to get to Switzerland.

Alexandre Marc seemed destined to use words which took on other meanings when used by more popular writers.  The name of the journal L’Ordre Nouveau was taken over after the Second World War by a French far-right nationalist movement influenced by a sort of neo-Celtic ideology and was widely known for painting Celtic cross graffiti on walls in the days before graffiti art filled up all the space. 

French writer Charles Péguy (1873 – 1914) Painted by Jean-Pierre Laurens (1875-1932).

The Jewish philosophers

Revolution, especially after the Nazi-Fascist defeat, could only be considered in the broader society in its Marxist version.  Person, which as a term had been developed by the Roman stoic philosophers could never carry the complexity of meanings which Marc, de Rougemont, and E. Mounier wanted to give it. 


The Jewish philosophers Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas also used the term “personalism” in the same sense as Marc; but their influence was limited to small circles.  In fact, “individualism” either seen positively or negatively; has returned as the most widely used term.  In some ways; this difficulty with the popular perception of words exists with the way Marc uses “federalism” by which he really means “con-federalism”.

Martin Buber in Palestine/Israel (1940 – 1950). By See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Foundations of the European Movement and the European Federalists

Alexandre Marc and Denis de Rougemont met again in Switzerland at the end of the Second World War; when de Rougemont returned from spending the war years in the USA.  They started reconnecting people whom they knew in the pre-war years; who also saw the need for a total reformation of European society. 

Both de Rougemont and Marc were good organizers of meetings and committees; and they played an important role in 1947 and 1948; setting up the first meetings for the foundations of the European movement and the European federalists; especially the August 1947 meeting at Montreux, Switzerland; in which world citizens  and world federalists were also present.

Emmanuel Levinas. By Bracha L. Ettinger, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Cold War.

Both men stressed the need for education and highlighted the role of youth to move European unity; beyond the debates of the 1930s and the start of the Cold War; though both continued to stress the importance of the themes; which brought them together in the 1930s.

Centers for the Study of European Federalism

They were both founders of centers for the study of European federalism and an exploration of European values. It was in the context of seminars and publications of the two centers; that I worked with both in the 1970s.   Culture in the philosophical sense was crucial for both; and their efforts in Geneva and Nice were rather similar.

Marc and de Rougemont had a personal falling out that lasted nearly a decade; due, it seems, to the tensions surrounding the break up of de Rougemont’s first marriage.  But even during this break; de Rougemont always spoke to me highly of Marc and his ideas.

Distrust of European Integration

De Rougemont knew that I was seeing Marc and had an interest in the intellectual; currents of France in the 1930s.  The two men came together again later; especially after de Rougemont’s happy second marriage.  From his death be; de Rougemont spoke to Marc on the telephone concerning the need to reprint the issues of L’Order Nouveau; since the articles were still important. The reprinting has been done since.

Both de Rougemont and Marc shared a distrust of European integration; as it was being carried out within the European Community and later the European Union; Both men stressed the need for local democracy; and shared a strong distrust of the politicians prominent in the nation-state system. 

The Lobbying of Governments on Federalist Issues.

De Rougemont went on to give most of his attention to the role of regions; especially the trans-frontier Geneva area; which combines part of Switzerland and France and is an economic pole of attraction for the Italian Val d’Aoste.

Marc continued to stress what he called “global” or “integral” federalism; a federalism with great autonomy and initiative at every level as over against “Hamiltonian”; federalism which he saw as the creation of ever larger entities such as the United States; whose culture and form of government Marc distrusted.

Hamiltonian Federalism

Marc remarked that  ‘Hamiltonian federalism’; as a whole was turning its back on spiritual; cultural and social questions and devoting itself to a form of action that can be defined; as ‘political’ and underlined the contradiction that is inherent in the lobbying of governments on federalist issues.

The Future is within Us

De Rougemont was the better writer.  His last book The Future is within Us; though pessimistic; especially of political efforts, remains a useful summing up of his ideas. (2) Although Alexandre Marc wrote a good deal; his forms of expression; were too complex, too paradoxical, too filled with references to ideas; which are not fully explained to be popular. 

Marc’s influence was primarily verbal as stimulant to his students.  Having seen early in his life the dangers of totalitarian thought; he always stressed the need for dialogue and listening; for popular participation at all levels of decision-making. As with ‘order’ ‘revolution’ ‘the person’, ‘federalism’ was probably not the term he should have chosen to carry the weight  of his ideas.

A Complex Man

The other Alexander — Hamilton — has infused the word ‘federalism’ with the idea of unification of many smaller units.  ‘Popular participation’ is probably a better term for Marc’s ideas; if the word ‘popular’ could carry the complex structure; which Marc tried to give to the word ‘person’. Con-federation is probably the better term for the de-centralized administrative structures that Marc proposed.

Marc was a complex man; one of the bridges; who helped younger persons to understand the debates; which surrounded the Russian Revolution; the rise and decline of Fascism and Nazism; and the post-Second World War hopes for a United Europe.  As de Rougemont on his death bed said to Marc:

“We have been able to do nothing, start again, talk to the young and we must carry on.”


  • For the 1930s period see: Christian Roy. Alexandre Marc et la Jeune Europe: L’Ordre nouveau aux origins du personnalisme (Presses d’Europe, 1998) J. Laubet del Bayle. Les non-conformistes des années 30 : Une Tentative de renouvellement de la pensée politique francaise (Seuil, 1969) Michel Winock. Esprit : Des intellectuels dans la cité 1930-1950 (Seuil, 1996)
  • Denis de Rougemont The Future is within US  (Pergamon Press, 1983).

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Denis de Rougemon Rapprochement of Cultures.

Denis de Rougemont (1906-1985), The Future is within us.

By Dr. Rene Wadlow.

Self-government will be; first of all; the art of getting people to meddle in things which concern them.  It will soon call for the skill of challenging once again; decisions which concern them; and which have been taken without them…Self-government specifically consists in finding one’s own way along uncharted paths.       

Denis de Rougemont.

         Denis de Rougemont; was an intellectual leader among world citizens often walking on uncharted paths.  A French-speaking Swiss; after his studies of literature at the University of Geneva; at 25, he moved to Paris where he quickly became part of a group of young; unorthodox thinkers who were developing a “Personalist” philosophy. 

The Personalists around Emmanuel Mounier, Alexandre Marc, Robert Aron and Arnaud Dandieu were trying to develop an approach based on the ‘Person’ to counter the strong intellectual currents of communism and fascism; then at their height in European society. (1)  De Rougemont was one of the writers of the 1931; Manifesto of the New Order; with its emphasis on developing a new cultural base for society.

Robert Aron. By Norabrune, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Powers of the State.

         For de Rougemont; revolutionaries attempting to seize power; even from the most repressive regimes; invariably fall into the power structures; they hoped to eliminate.  Only the power we have over ourselves is synonymous with freedom.  For the first time; the person has not only the need; but also the power and ability to choose his future.

He wrote; “The powers of the State are in direct proportion to the inertia of the citizens.  The State will be tempted to abuse them; as soon as it thinks there are signs that the citizens are secretly tempted; to let themselves slide back into the conditions of subjects…Dictatorship requires no imagination: all we have to do is to allow ourselves to slide.  But the survival of mankind in an atmosphere; we can breath presupposes the glimpsed vision of happiness to be achieved; a ridge to be crossed; a horizon.

         “ The model of society; which Napoleon established by a stroke of genius with a view to war and nothing else; is the permanent state of emergency; which was to be the formula of the totalitarian states from 1930 onward. Everything is militarized; that is, capable of being mobilized at any time, spirit, body and goods.”

The Nazi movement.

         In 1935; De Rougemont lived in Germany as a university lecturer in Frankfurt.  There he was able to see the Nazi movement; at first hand and had seen Hitler speaking to crowds. He later wrote of this experience. “The greatest theologian of our time, Karl Barth wrote:

A prophet has no biography; he rises and falls with his mission.”

This may be said of Hitler; the anti-prophet of our time, the prophet of an empty power, of a dead past, of a total catastrophe; whose agent he was to become.  Hitler; better than orthodox  Communists, Fascists, Falangists and Maoists; answered the basic question of the century; (which is religious in the primary sociological sense of rebinding) by offering a comradeship, a togetherness, rituals, from the beat of drums by night, and by day to the sacred ceremonies of Nuremberg.”

         One of de Rougemont’s early essays was “Principes d’une politique de pessimisme active”. He and those around him saw the dangers and the opportunities; but were unable to draw together a large enough group of people to change the course of events.  As he wrote “From the early thirties of this century; young people who were awakened; but without ‘resources’ were laying the foundations of the personalist movement.  They knew that the totalitarians were going to win — at least for a tragic season — and tried to put into words the reasons for their refusal; in the face of this short-lived triumph.”

covershot. By CHRIS DRUMM, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Love in the Western World (L’Amour et l’Occident).

         In 1939, he published his most widely read book Love in
the Western World (L’Amour et l’Occident)
where he traced the idea of
romantic love from the Manichaeins, through theBogomiles, to the
Cathari to the poetry of the troubadours.

         During the war years, he lived in the USA writing and broadcasting on the French section of the Voice of America. In 1946 he returned to Europe, living most of the rest of his life near Geneva.

There he became highly active in the movement for European federalism, but he was critical of the concepts of a European Union as integration of existing States; He remained loyal to the position he set out in the mid-1930s. “Man is not made on the scale of the huge conglomerates which one tries to foist on him as ‘his fatherland’; they are far too large or too little for him.  Too little, if one seeks to confine his spiritual horizons to the frontiers of the Nation-State; too large if one tries to make them the locus of this direct contact with the flesh and with the earth which is necessary to Man”.

The Federalism.

         He put an emphasis on culture stressing a common European civilization but with great respect for the contributions of different European regions.  His idea of federalism was to build on existing regions, especially trans-frontier regions.  He was an active defender of ecological causes, seeing in the destruction of nature one of the marks of the over-centralization of State power. 

Thus he was stringing against the nuclear power industry which he saw as leading to State centralism.  As he wrote:

Starting afresh means building a new parallel society, a society whose formulae will not be imposed on us from above, will not come down to us from a capital city, but will on the contrary be improvised and invented on the plane of everyday decision-making and will be ordered in accordance with the desire for liberty which alone unites us when it is the objective of each and all.”

  • See
    Jean-Louis Loubet Del Bayle Les Non-Conformistes des années 30 (Paris :
    Seuil, 1969)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Garry Davis Portraits of World Citizens.

Garry Davis: “And Now the People Have The Floor”.

Featured Image: Garry Davis by Wim van Rossem for Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Garry Davis; who died 24 July 2013, in Burlington, Vermont; was often called “World Citizen N°1”. The title was not strictly exact as the organized world citizen movement began in England in 1937 by Hugh J. Shonfield and his Commonwealth of World Citizens; followed in 1938 by the creation jointly in the USA and England of the World Citizen Association. However; it was Garry Davis in Paris in 1948-1949 who reached a wide public and popularized the term “world citizen”.

The First Wave.

Garry Davis was the start of what I call “the second wave of world citizen action”.  The first wave was in 1937-1940 as an effort to counter the narrow nationalism represented by Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and militaristic Japan. This first world citizen wave of action did not prevent the Second World War; but it did highlight the need for a wider cosmopolitan vision.  Henri Bonnet; of the League of Nations’ Committee for Intellectual Co-operation; and founder of the US branch of the World Citizen Association; became an intellectual leader of the Free French Movement of De Gaulle in London; during the War.  Bonnet was a leader in the founding of UNESCO — the reason it is located in Paris — and UNESCO’s emphasis on understanding among cultures.

League of Nations

Stanley Bruce chairing the League of Nations Council in 1936. Joachim von Ribbentrop is addressing the council. By Commonwealth of Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The League of Nations and its unused Peace Army.

The Second Wave.

The Second Wave of world citizen action in which Garry Davis was a key figure lasted from 1948 to 1950 — until the start of the war in Korea and the visible start of the Cold War; although, in reality, the Cold War began in 1945 when it became obvious that Germany and Japan would be defeated.  The victorious Great Powers began moving to solidify their positions.  The Cold War lasted from 1945 until 1991 with the end of the Soviet Union. During the 1950-1991 period; most world citizen activity was devoted to preventing a war between the USA and the USSR, working largely within other arms control/disarmament associations and not under a “world citizen flag.”

The Third Wave.

The Third Wave of world citizen action began in 1991 with the end of the Cold War and the rise again of narrow nationalist movements; as seen in the break up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.  The Association of World Citizens with its emphasis on conflict resolution, human rights, ecologically-sound development, and understanding among cultures is the moving force of this Third Wave.

The two-year Second Wave was an effort to prevent the Cold War which might have become a hot World War Three.  In 1948; the Communist Party took over Czechoslovakia; in what the West called a “coup”; more accurately a cynical manipulation of politics.  The coup was the first example of a post-1945 change in the East-West balance of power; and started speculation on other possible changes as in French Indochina or in 1950 in Korea.  1948 was also the year that the UN General Assembly was meeting in Paris.

The United Nations did not yet have a permanent headquarters in New York; so the General Assembly first met in London and later in Paris.  All eyes; especially those of the media, were fixed on the UN.  No one was sure what the UN would become; if it would be able to settle the growing political challenges or “go the way of the League of Nations”.

Un General Asembly

Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global Leadership?.

“Song and Dance” Actor.

Garry Davis, born in 1921; was a young Broadway actor in New York prior to the entry of the US in the World War in 1941. Garry Davis was a son of Meyer Davis; a well-known popular band leader who often performed at society balls and was well known in the New York-based entertainment world.  Thus it was fairly natural that his son would enter the entertainment world, as a “song and dance” actor in the musical comedies of those days. Garry had studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology; a leading technology institution.

When the US entered the war; Garry joined the Army Air Force and became a bomber pilot of the B-17, stationed in England with a mission to bomb targets in Germany.  Garry’s brother had been killed in the Allied invasion of Italy; and there was an aspect of revenge in bombing German military targets until he was ordered to bomb German cities in which there were civilians.

The Creation of a World Federation with powers to prevent War.

At the end of the War and back as an actor in New York; he felt a personal responsibility toward helping to create a peaceful world and became active with world federalists; who were proposing the creation of a world federation with powers to prevent war; largely based on the US experience of moving from a highly decentralized government under the Articles of Confederation, to the more centralized Federal Government structured by the Constitution.

At the time, Garry had read a popular book among federalists; The Anatomy of Peace by the Hungarian-born Emery Reves.  Reves had written:

“We must clarify principles and arrive at axiomatic definitions as to what causes war and what creates peace in human society.” If war was caused by a state-centric nationalism as Reves, who had observed closely the League of Nations, claimed, then peace requires a move away from nationalism. As Garry wrote in his autobiography My Country is the World (1) “In order to become a citizen of the entire world, to declare my prime allegiance to mankind, I would first have to renounce my United States nationality. I would secede from the old and declare the new”.

United World Citizen International Identity Card.

In May 1948, knowing that the UN General Assembly was to meet in Paris in September; and earlier the founding meeting of the international world federalists was to be held in Luxembourg, he went to Paris. There he renounced his US citizenship and gave in his passport.  However; he had no other identity credentials in a Europe where the police can stop you and demand that you provide identity papers. So he had printed a “United World Citizen International Identity Card” though the French authorities listed him as “Apatride d’origine americaine”. Paris after the War was filled with “apatride”; but there was probably no other “d’origine americaine”

Giving up US citizenship and a passport which many of the refugees in Paris would have wanted at any price was widely reported in the press and brought him many visitors.  Among the visitors was Robert Sarrazac who had been active in the French resistance and shared the same view of the destructive nature of narrow nationalism; and the need to develop a world citizen ideology.  Garry was also joined by the young Guy Marchand; who would later play an important role in structuring the world citizen movement.

Guy Marchand

Guy Marchand By Georges Biard, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons. 

World Citizenship.

As the French police was not happy with people with no valid identity papers wondering around; Garry Davis moved to the large modern Palais de Chaillot  with its terraces which had become “world territory” for the duration of the UN General Assembly. He set up a tent and waited to see what the UN would do to promote world citizenship.  In the meantime; Robert Sarrazac who had many contacts from his resistance activities set up a “Conseil de Solidarite” formed of people admired for their independence of thought, not linked to a particular political party.

The Conseil was led by Albert Camus, novelist and writer for newspapers, Andre Breton, the Surrealist poet, l’Abbé Pierre and Emmanuel Mounier, editor of Esprit, both Catholics of highly independent spirits as well as Henri Roser, a Protestant minister and secretary for French-speaking countries of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Albert Camus

Albert Camus, Nobel prize winner. By Photograph by United Press International, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Albert Camus: Stoic Humanist and World Citizen.

An Interruption.

Davis and his advisors felt that world citizenship should not be left outside the General Assembly hall but had to be presented inside as a challenge to the ordinary way of doing things, “an interruption”. Thus, it was planned that Garry Davis from the visitors balcony would interrupt the UN proceedings to read a short text; Robert Sarrazac had the same speech in French, and Albert Crespey, son of a chief from Togo had his talk written out in his Togolese language.

In the break after a long Yugoslav intervention, Davis stood up.  Father Montecland, “priest by day and world citizen by night” said in a booming voice “And now the people have the floor!” Davis said “Mr Chairman and delegates: I interrupt in the name of the people of the world not represented here. Though my words may be unheeded, our common need for world law and order can no longer be disregarded.”   After this, the security guards moved in, but Robert Sarrazac on the other side of the Visitors Gallery continued in French, followed by a plea for human rights in Togolese. Later, near the end of the UN Assembly in Paris, the General Assembly adopted without an opposition vote, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which became the foundation of world citizens’ efforts to advance world law.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Human Rights: The Foundation of World Law.

The Rue du Cherche Midi.

Dr Herbert Evatt of Australia was the President of the UN General Assembly in 1948.  He was an internationalist who had worked during the San Francisco Conference creating the UN to limit the powers of the Permanent Five of the Security Council.  Evatt met with Davis a few days after the “interruption” and encouraged Davis to continue to work for world citizenship, even if disrupting UN meetings was not the best way.

Shortly after highlighting world citizenship at the UN; Garry Davis went to the support of Jean Moreau; a young French world citizen and active Catholic; who as a conscientious objector to military service, had been imprisoned in Paris as there was no law on alternative service in France at the time. Davis camped in front of the door of the military prison at the Rue du Cherche Midi in central Paris.  As Davis wrote:

“When it is clearly seen that citizens of other nations are willing to suffer for a man born in France claiming the moral right to work for and love his fellow man rather than be trained in killing him, as Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tsu, Tolstoy, St Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, and other great thinkers and religious leaders have taught, the world may begin to understand that the conscience of Man itself rises above all artificially-created divisions and fears.” (2).

Herbert Evatt

Dr Herbert Evatt By Max Dupain, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Others joined Davis in camping on the street.  Garry Davis worked closely on this case with Henri Roser and Andre Trocme of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Davis was put in jail for camping on the city street and also for not having valid identification documents, but his place on the street was filled with others, including a German pacifist, an act of courage so soon after the end of the War.  It took another decade before alternative service in France was put into place, but Davis’ action had led to the issue being widely raised in France, and the link between world citizenship and non-violent action clearly drawn.

Garry Davis was never an “organizational man”.  He saw himself as a symbol in action.  After a year in France with short periods in Germany, he decided in July 1949 to return to the US. As he wrote at the time:

“I have often said that it is not my intention to head a movement or to become president of an organization. In all honesty and sincerity, I must define the limit of my abilities as being a witness to the principle of world unity, defending to the limit of my ability the Oneness of man and his immense possibilities on our planet Earth, and fighting the fears and hatreds created artificially to perpetuate narrow and obsolete divisions which lead and have always led to armed conflict.”

Perhaps by the working of karma, on the ship taking him to the USA, he met Dr. P. Natarajan, a south Indian religious teacher in the Upanishadic tradition.  Natarajan had lived in Geneva and Paris and had a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Paris.  He and Davis became close friends, and Davis spent some time in India at the center created by Natarajan who stressed the development of the inner life.  “Meditation consists of bringing all values inside yourself” was a motto of Natarajan.

It was at the home of Harry Jakobsen, a follower of Natarajan, on Schooly Mountain, New Jersey that I first met Garry Davis in the early 1950s. I was also interested in Indian philosophy, and someone put me in contact with Jakobsen. However, I had joined what was then the Student World Federalists in 1951 so I knew of the Paris adventures of Garry. We have since seen each other in Geneva, France and the US from time to time.

As well as a World Citizen.

Some world federalists and world citizens thought that his renunciation of US citizenship in 1948 confused people.  The more organization-minded world federalists preferred to stress that one can be a good citizen of a local community, a national state as well as a world citizen.   However Davis’ and my common interest in Asian thought was always a bond beyond any tactical disagreements.

Today, it is appropriate to cite the oft-used Indian image of the wave as an aspect of the one eternal ocean of energy.  Each individual is both an individual wave and at the same time part of the impersonal source from which all comes and returns.  Garry Davis as a wave has now returned to the broader ocean.  He leaves us a continuing challenge writing:

“There is vital need now for wise and practical leadership, and the symbols, useful up to a point, must now give way to the men qualified for such leadership.”


1) Garry Davis. My Country is the World (London: Macdonald Publishers, 1962)

2) Garry Davis.Over to Pacifism:A Peace News Pamphlet (London: Peace News, 1949)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizen.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Leopold Sendar Senghor. Rapprochement of Cultures.

Leopold Sendar Senghor.

Featured Image: President of Venezuela Rafael Caldera receiving the President of Senegal, Leopold Senghor-Original at the FAO World Summit on Agrarian Reform in Rome (1979). By Prensa Rafael Caldera, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Leopold Sendar Senghor was a poet, a cultural bridge-builder between Africa and Europe, an active world citizen and world federalist.

Who will teach rhythm to the world laid low by machines and cannons,
Who will shout with joy to wake up the dead and the orphans at the dawn?
Say, who will give back the memory of life to the man with eviscerated hopes?…
We are the men of the dance, whose feet regain force by drumming on the hard earth.
Senghor “Prayer to the Masks”

The first President of Independent Senegal.

Leopold Sendar Senghor  was the first President of independent Senegal although he had first wanted to create a West African Federation.

His efforts at the rapprochement of cultures; and their mutual enrichment are very much in the spirit of world citizens’ cultural policies;  at a time when the dialogue among civilizations as well as a possible clash among civilizations is on the world political agenda;  it is helpful to look at the lasting contribution  Senghor as a cultural thinker.

While his intellectual convictions were rather constant, his intellectual life falls into four rather separate segments:

  1. 1930s: His studies in France against the social background of unrest linked to the Depression.
  2. 1940s: The War years and the social and economic reconstruction in France.
  3. 1950s: Participation in French politics and the lead up to the independence of Senegal.
  4. 1960-1980: The years as President of Senegal.

Leopold Sendar Senghor  was born in 1906 in the small village of Joal; on the Senegalese coast; about 75 miles south of the capital Dakar. His parents were relatively well-to-do farmers; both of the Serer ethnic group.

Family tradition held that the father came from what had been a royal family; but the Serer had lost most of their power to other ethnic groups; and there were no powerful chiefs left. Both of Senghor’s parents were Roman Catholics; and his father in particular saw education as the chief road to advancement.

Thus at seven years old; Leopold Sendar  Senghor was put in a Catholic boarding school and later in the Lycee at Dakar. He developed nostalgia for his childhood and the innocence of village life;  which he expressed in his poems but little knew in reality. He was a good student and was chosen to continue university education in Paris in 1928.

Leopold Sendar Senghor

President Leopold Senigor of Senegal, middle, and members of his party are welcomed upon their arrival in the United States for a visit (1980). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Popular Front of Socialists and Communists.

The French colonial administration, unlike that of England; did not create universities in Africa until very late. The first;  the University of Dakar, began in 1957: the second;  the University of Abidjan, in 1963.

 Senghor went to the leading French university;  the Sorbonne, and graduated in 1934; having majored in French language and literature. Paris in the 1930s was a center for literary and political thought.

The world-wide economic depression had hit France in the early 1930s;  leading to strong social and political movements. February 1934; saw a far-Right effort to bring down the government with a march on the Parliament; and May 1936; saw the first Left government;  The Popular Front of Socialists and Communists.

Students and others were active in considering alternative structures for a new society.

Influenced by the Catholic “Spiritualists”

Senghor was influenced by the Catholic “spiritualists ” – writers who were Roman Catholics; but not very “orthodox”. The poet and social critic Charles Peguy;  who had been killed during the First World War; was a strong influence on many Catholic youth;  and there are echoes of Peguy in Senghor’s poems.

Peguy was an unorthodox socialist;  who thought that the French peasants; and not the industrial workers were the revolutionary force of the 20th century.

 Senghor;  with more reason for Senegal;  also saw the rural population as the core social base. As Senghor wrote: 

“I have chosen my toiling black people, my peasant people, the peasant race throughout the world.”

Charles Péguy

French writer Charles Péguy (1873 – 1914) Painted by Jean-Pierre Laurens (1875-1932).

Identity of traditional African society.

Senghor proposed that the communal identity of traditional African society;  which he saw as classless and non-exploitive could serve as the base for a new society – ideas that he later developed; when President of Senegal as ‘the road to African Socialism’.

He was part of the student milieu around the journal Esprit; edited by Emmanuel Mounier;  which was trying to find a path other than capitalism, communism or fascism – a path called “personalism”. Espirit was also a home for people influenced by the French;  “utopian-socialist” and federalist Proudhon.


Picture of the 1930s: Emmanuel Mounier (1905–1950) was a French philosopher. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The World Federalist Movement.

Senghor was always strongly federalist in his approach to the structure of the state;  and later was an active participant in the world federalist movement. Jacques Maritain and his wife; were also active among intellectual Catholic youth of Paris.

Maritain was an adult convert from Protestantism to Catholicism;  and a powerful voice in defense of democracy; in a broader Catholic milieu largely anti-democratic;  with a strong pro-Royalist far-Right current.

Jacques Maritain

Jacques Maritain, French philosopher and writer. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Civilizing Mission”

Paris in the 1930s; was also home to African students from countries other than Senegal;  so that a Pan-African spirit developed. In the 1930s;  in a France where all the political parties;  Right and Left;  supported the colonial system as part of the “civilizing mission” of France;  the idea that African culture had anything to contribute to European political and economic thought;  was met with scepticism.

Therefore;  Senghor and his friends put their emphasis on the idea that African civilization was equal to that of Europe;  and could make contributions as an equal.

Stressing equality;  was also a way of denying legitimacy to the prevailing ideological charters of colonialism. As there were also students; from the French-speaking West Indies and Haiti and Guyana;  a “Pan-Black” movement grew up for which Senghor coined the term Negritude.

The Black Student.

Negritude;  Senghor wrote is: 

“The sum total of the cultural values of the black world.”

Aime Cesaire and Leon Damas, along with Senghor were the intellectual leaders of the movement;  and founded a journal L’Etudiant Noir (The Black Student).

Into this group came American Black writers;  who were living in Paris such as Countree Cullen and Langston Hughes. There were mutual intellectual exchanges;  related to the Americans discovering Africa and the Africans discovering Black literary efforts in the USA.

Public debate on the ways to transform the economic and political structure of France; was weakened by the start of the Second World War and the German occupation of France; although discussions in smaller circles continued; both around the “National Revolution” of the Vichy government of Marechal Petain; and in the different resistance movements.


Portrait of American writer and activist Langston Hughes (1943). By Gordon Parks, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Prisoner of War.

Senghor spent 1940-1942;  in a German prisoner-of-war camp where group discussions were prohibited. Thus;  Senghor concentrated in the camp on writing poetry;  which he started publishing in 1945 as France came out of the war.

In 1945;  when France was restructuring itself after the war; everything seemed possible. There was a widely felt need to transform the society. The old society had led to war and defeat. A new society was needed, more just, more peaceful and with new political faces.

Constituent Assembly.

Senghor was chosen to represent Senegal in the Constituent Assembly;  that was to write a new constitution for France. As the colonial administration in Senegal during the war had been pro-Vichy;  and the older Senegalese political leaders had been compromised by association with the colonial government; new representatives from Senegal needed to be chosen quickly. Senghor was already living in Paris and had been a member of the anti-Nazi resistance.

Although he had been living in France since 1928;  and had spent only a few summer vacations in Senegal; he became a forceful voice for Africa in French politics;  and started to think of a political future rather than a literary one.

The French political system had developed so that the colonies had representatives in the French Parliament. A good number of the first leaders of the independent African states had been members of the French Parliament;  where they had played important roles in French politics.

Since the African representatives had no political base in France;  they could be chosen as ministers as relatively neutral figures in the often-changing French governments of the Fourth Republic (1945-1959).

The government of Edgar Faure.

Senghor was elected to the French Parliament from Senegal in 1951;  and served as minister in 1955 in the government of Edgar Faure; one of the most intellectual of the French political leaders;  who appreciated Senghor as a “fellow intellectual”.

The French withdrawal from Indochina in 1954;  and the start of the war for independence in Algeria in November of the same year;  highlighted that the colonial system was coming to an end.

Senghor came to see that his future was not in politics in France as “the voice of Africa” in French politics but in Africa itself. Thus;  he started building a political base in Africa.


President of the French Council Edgar Faure attending the Big Four Conference. Geneva, 18th July 1955. By Mario De Biasi (Mondadori Publishers), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The French West African States.

He hoped that a federal structure could keep the French West African states together – the start of a “United States of Africa”. However, the richer states;  in particular the Ivory Coast; were not prepared to pay for the poorer states, and in 1960; each colony became an independent state; although the colonies did not correspond to the pre-colonial West African societies.

Senghor had contributed to the restoration and reform of French society. In 1960; he would have to answer “Present” to his greatest challenge as President of now independent Senegal. Senghor faced two major challenges.

As President he was chief of a large administration; and he had never been an administrator. Some French colonial civil servants stayed on;  but the politically sensitive posts had to be held by Senegalese. Senghor had stressed in political debates in France;  that the African farmers were a “revolutionary force” and the building block of a new society.

Senegalese Reality.

Now he confronted a Senegalese reality;  where the most productive agriculture (peanut production largely for export);  was in the hands of conservative Islamic religious orders called the Mouride;  who ran a system of work in exchange for salvation, little short of serfdom.

The second major challenge was in developing a common ideology;  that would mobilize the efforts of the ethnically-divided Senegalese population.

Negritude as an ideology had been largely addressed to Europeans; in order to stress the worth and dignity of Africans. Now Senghor had to address Africans; and it could not be in the same terms.

Moreover; many Senegalese had thought that with the end of colonialism wealth;  which had been going to France would now stay in Africa. However;  Senegal had always been a poor country with few resources for export; other than peanut oil and some cotton. Wealth was not going to come automatically.

Society of Senghor’s Negritude.

The classless and non-exploitive African society of Senghor’s Negritude; was in reality one of deep divisions on ethnic and urban/rural lines; and exploitation of the weaker was not a European monopoly.

True to his convictions; Senghor stressed the creation of cooperatives and credit unions in the rural areas and developed village-level training programs based on local leadership.

He asked Louis-Joseph Lebret; a French Dominican monk to carry out the studies; which led to Senegal’s first five-year development plan.

Lebret was one of the Catholic intellectuals that Senghor had known in France; and who had been the leader of humanist economic; planning first in France and after the Second World War in Brazil, Lebanon, South Vietnam as well as in Senegal.

Louis-Joseph Lebret

Louis-Joseph Lebret en Colombie, 1958. By Unknown authorUnknown author, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Spirit of a New World.

A book by Lebret Mystique d’un Monde Nouveau (The Spirit of a New World published in 1940);  had stressed the idea of “the common good” or “the common welfare” and had had a deep impact on Catholics in the resistance movements and in the MRP – the liberal Catholic Party created at the end of the war.

Although Negritude remained the ideology; with which Senghor is most associated and which he continued to uphold in organizing Pan-African conferences of artists and thinkers; after 1955 he focused his thinking on the “civilization of the Universal”;  and the application in Africa of the philosophy of the French Jesuit palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Senghor was introduced to the thought of Teilhard de Chardin in the mid-1950s by Theodore Monod; the director of IFAN located in Dakar; the leading West African research institute in both the natural and the social sciences.

Monod was a biologist with wide interests. He was a Protestant; his father and uncles having been leading liberal Protestant clergy. Monod had already quoted Teilhard in an article in Presence Africaine in 1950. In the early 1950s; Teilhard de Chardin was living in New York City; more-or-less in Church-imposed exile.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1955). By Unknown authorUnknown author, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

His working life in China.

He had spent most of his working life in China doing research on the remains of pre-historic man – best remembered for his work on “Pekin Man”. Teilhard’s view of a Cosmic Christ; of a new evolutionary stage on human consciousness; of the earth as a single organism brought fear to the dogmatists of his day.

The Jesuit Order prohibited him from publishing or teaching. Since he spoke little English; the Jesuit authorities felt he would be harmless in New York; and Teilhard lived there in relative obscurity until his death. Direct obedience to the Pope and discipline are characteristics of the Jesuit order; and he accepted the ban on publishing his writings.

However; his unpublished manuscripts circulated in a relatively small circle; especially among Protestant such as Theodore Monod; who had no interest in reporting Teilhard to Catholic Church authorities.

Copies of all Teilhard de Chardin’s manuscripts were given to a Dutch Protestant; who had been the Netherlands Ambassador to China during World War II.

Teilhard believed that obedience ended with death. Thus after his death on Easter Sunday 1955; his manuscripts started to be published in France. Teilhard was unable to explain or defend his writings; but his influence has grown steadily.

Synthesis of the Christian Concept.

In Teilhard de Chardin; Senghor found a way to develop a synthesis of the Christian concept of God; who is both the source and the aim of life with the African concept of a universal vital force in all creation.

This vital force is the base for the essential oneness of all life; life coming from a common source; evolving through a multitude of different shapes and forms; but called upon to become aware of its oneness through a planetary consciousness.

Teilhard de Chardin also provided a framework for a way to understand the contribution of African society and culture to world civilization. “All that rises, converges” is a key concept in Theilhard’s thought. Senghor has been described as the poet and theorist of synthesis against apartness.

It is not clear what Senghor’s philosophical approach has had on current Senegalese political thinking; however, the seeds have been sown. For the majority of the Senegalese; Senghor was the man who knew when to step aside – one of the few West African leaders not to have been overthrown by a military coup.

In 1980; after 20 years of presidency; Senghor left a multi-party democracy in place with Senegal; playing an important role in African and UN efforts. Other Senegalese leaders now face the challenges of development; and the search for common welfare.


Professor Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.


For a good selection of Senghor’s writings translated into English see: John Reed and Clive Wake (Eds.) Senghor: Prose and Poetry (London: Oxford University Press, 1965).

For Senghor’s political thinking on the eve of becoming President of Senegal see Nationhood and the African Road to Socialism (Paris, Presence Africaine, 1962).

For his appreciation and application of the thought of Teilhard de Chardin, see L.S.Senghor Pierre Teilhard de Chardin et la Politique Africiane (Paris : Le Seuil, 1962).


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