IO Files

Minutes of Thirty-sixth Meeting of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly, Paris, December 21, 1951


[Here follow list of persons (47) present and discussion of a prior agenda item.]

2. Indians in South Africa [Gadels 442, 443, 459; SD/A/C.1/360; A/AC.53/L.20].

Mr. Taylor pointed out that the resolution contained in document A/AC.53/L.20 might come up for a vote in the Ad Hoc Committee that day. Mr. Meeker referred to this draft resolution which was similar to the one passed by the Assembly at its Fifth Session. It called for a commission for which the US had voted the previous year. The Indians had indicated that they might prefer to have the assembly appoint a member to this commission for the Union Government if the latter failed to make such appointment. The Department was strongly opposed to this idea. Gadel 459 stated that South Africa would certainly [Page 857] refuse to make the appointment, and a move of this sort would basically change the character of the Commission as a negotiating body, and possibly precipitate the withdrawal of South Africa from the UK

The Department’s instructions had also been consistently against active US participation in this matter. The Department felt that the idea of a single mediator would not be adopted without an active push from the US Delegation which the Department would not authorize. The Indians were not interested in this idea. It had been concluded by the staff that it would be unwise to put in a resolution calling for a single mediator since it could not succeed without efforts the Delegation was not authorized to make. Consequently the US would only throw this idea out during the course of its speech. It was hoped that some other Delegation might pick up this idea.

In connection with the voting on the joint draft resolution of Burma, India, Indonesia, Iran and Iraq, the US would vote for it as a whole, since it did not go beyond the resolution of last year. If a paragraph by paragraph vote were requested, the US might wish to vote against or abstain on the paragraph referring to specific legislation of the Union of South Africa, and providing for inclusion of the item on the agenda of the Seventh Session. Mr. Meeker felt that the US vote would not defeat these paragraphs, and it might be politically wiser to vote in favor.

Mr. Stein felt that the US should not support a recommendation that the UN tell a country not to enforce specific legislation. He suggested that at least the US should vote against operative paragraph three calling upon South Africa to suspend the enforcement of the Group Areas Act. Mr. Cohen did not think that anything in the Charter prevented this type of recommendation by the UN, but that it was merely a question of policy. South Africa was of course embarked on a course fraught with grave danger. The US should abstain on this paragraph. Mr. Meeker agreed that the Assembly had the power to take this action, and that the question was one of the political effect such a course might engender. If the US abstained or cast a negative vote on these various paragraphs, the South Africans might well take this as an indication that we had reservations on the matter, and they would feel justified in refusing to abide by the resolution.

Mr. Pollak underscored the remarks of Mr. Meeker and called for considering this matter also in terms of the Genocide charge recently launched against the US by American Communists and the Civil Rights Congress.1

Mr. Sandifer suggested voting against operative paragraph three since our vote in favor of the resolution as a whole would be the really [Page 858] important vote. Ambassador Kirk pointed to the inconsistency of our apparent stands in Committee One on the Soviet charge against our Mutual Security Act, and in the Ad Hoc Committee on this item. Mr. Vorys said the difference was that as far as the laws were concerned, “ours was nice, and theirs naughty”.

Mr. Cohen suggested that we offer an amendment showing exactly where we stood on this matter, and after its probable defeat, abstaining on operative paragraph 3. Miss Strauss proposed language to the following effect: “that the Union Government take no action which would further racial segregation.” This would avoid reference to specific legislation and accomplish the same result. If such language did not succeed, then we could vote for the resolution as a whole.

Mr. Ross thought that the whole history of this item showed it to be self-defeating, and accomplishing only a strengthening of the policies of the Malan Government. He thought that a much simpler approach along the lines of an exhortation, plus the proffering of the assistance of the UN Secretary General would be the only possible way of retrieving this situation. Mr. Maktos cautioned against pushing South Africa so far by resolutions aimed against it that it would withdraw from the UN.

Dr. Tobias was not impressed by these expediency considerations and the telegrams concerning it. He felt a policy of expediency would return to plague us in the future. We were faced with a situation which he had tried to make clear in Committee 4, where we had not a world government, but only a limited organization which reflected internal policies. He could only agree with Mr. Meeker that the US could vote for the resolution as a whole, in that it was similar to last year’s. But on specific paragraphs, he thought we would get into trouble. This was not the same type of problem as the one of South West Africa. He did not think the UN could ask for internal changes, however justified or desirable they might be.

Ambassador Gross recalled that last year’s resolution recommended that the Group Areas Act not be enforced. He felt this gave us valid grounds for abstaining, in that the first preambular paragraph referred to the previous resolutions. Ambassador Jessup supported Mr. Ross, and asked whether we had exhausted all chances of having others put a resolution in along the lines Mr. Ross suggested. We could then fall back to the present one, if necessary.

Miss Strauss referred to the Delegation’s suggestion to which the Department had only recently moved, of the idea of a single mediator. We could ask others to suggest this idea, but it would be unfair if we could not assist in pushing it along. This we were not authorized to do. Mr. Taylor pointed out that the situation might well be different, depending on when the matter came to a vote before Christmas. We [Page 859] should try to have the resolution voted on only as a whole, in which case we would support it. If it came up for a paragraph by paragraph vote, we could abstain on the operative paragraphs if necessary.

Mrs. Roosevelt felt we should vote for it as a whole. We could abstain on preambular paragraphs 3, indicating that this was already taken care of by reference in paragraph 1. Then we could abstain on the last two operative paragraphs. The Department’s instructions would permit that much leeway. She felt we might explore Mr. Ross’ suggestion if the vote did not come on until after the recess. She said that of course we did not wish to see any state leave the UK, and there were practical reasons for keeping South Africa and others in, too. In regard to the recent Communist propaganda gambit entitled “We charge Genocide”, she said that the US could explain its position satisfactorily here in the UN. At home was where this matter was dangerous, especially when tied in with the South African and Moroccan items. Every time we went back on a principle, she said, it meant rough sailing in the future. She added that often times we did not see things “the whole way ’round,” although there were probably overriding considerations for our present attitude. Senator Cooper suggested that Mr. Ross’ idea was such a good one that we ought to seek postponement on any action today.

[Here follow remarks appropriate to the fact that this was the last Delegation meeting before the Christmas holidays and that certain members (Congressmen Mansfield and vorys) were leaving permanently.]

Charles D. Cook
  1. Documentation on this matter is located in file 320.