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Union Now is journalist and Atlanticist Clarence Streit's proposal for a federal union of the world's major democracies. The first edition of the book was published in 1939. The book is notable for its contribution to the formation of the Atlantic Movement, spearheaded by such groups as Federal Union, Inc. (which would later become the Association to Unite the Democracies) and the Atlantic Union Committee.[1]



As a New York Times correspondent at the League of Nations, Streit was disturbed by the democracies' apparent inability to deal with such crises as the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the rise of Nazism. He came to the conclusion that at the root of the League's problems were nationalism and the democracies' ignorance of their own share of the world's economic and military power.[2] Streit began work on his proposal for a union of democracies in 1933. In 1938, with world war appearing increasingly likely, the book was accepted for publication by Harper & Brothers.[3]


Streit argued that, in a globalizing world, the trend towards growing domestic exposure to "external" problems had led many to embrace a reactive posture. In parts of Europe, this meant an increasingly belligerent nationalism that sacrificed freedom for security; in the United States, it meant an isolationism that sought to defend against global conflicts rather than working to prevent them. With freedom within nations and peace among them at risk, internationalist proposals such as the League of Nations fell short: in addition to lacking effective decision-making and enforcement mechanisms, they placed too much emphasis on sovereign governments, marginalizing the individuals they represented.

Streit proposed a Union that, along the lines of American federalism, brought together the democracies of Europe, North America and the former parts of the British Empire under a single government with the power to grant citizenship and wage war; its membership would expand as more nations joined the democratic camp. This Union would honor individual rights while combining the economic and military power of the world’s democracies against autocratic regimes. Streit argued that the centralization of certain government services and the removal of tariffs would also increase economic efficiency. As a federalist, however, Streit also supported considerable autonomy and home rule for the formerly sovereign nation-states.

Reception and Legacy

Writing in the New York Times, historian James Truslow Adams offered cautious praise for Streit's proposal, stating that "[s]ome day, in the kind of world we live in, with space annihilated and interdependence between nations complete, something like what Mr. Streit suggests will have to come to pass."[4] Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian also praised the book, describing Streit's plan as a democratic, peaceful alternative to the ideological visions provided by fascism and communism.[5] A number of prominent figures, including Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts and Undersecretary of State William Clayton, joined the Atlantic Movement as a result of the book's publication.[6]

However, it was in response to Union Now that George Orwell wrote his famous essay Not Counting Niggers, in which he riposted that:

Briefly what Mr Streit suggests is that the democratic nations, starting with fifteen which he names, should voluntarily form themselves into a union - not a league or an alliance, but a union similar to the United States, with a common government, common money, . . .

The British and French empires, with their six hundred million disenfranchised human beings, would simply be receiving fresh police forces; the huge strength of the U.S.A. would be behind the robbery of India and Africa. Mr. Streit is letting cats out of bags, but all phrases like 'Peace Bloc', 'Peace Front', etc., contain some such implications; all imply a tightening-up of the existing structure. The unspoken clause is always 'not counting niggers.' For how can we make a 'firm stand' against Hitler if we are simultaneously weakening ourselves at home? In other words, how can we 'fight Fascism' except by bolstering up a far vaster injustice?[7]


  1. ^ "History". Association to Unite the Democracies. Retrieved 29 July 2009.  
  2. ^ 'Elijah *from Missoula', Time, Mar. 27, 1950.
  3. ^ Lynn Darling, 'The 50-Year Mission; Clarence Streit's Dream of a Transatlantic Union and the Promise of Peace', Washington Post, . p. B1.
  4. ^ James Truslow Adams, 'A Union of the Democracies: Mr. Streit's Plan for a Federation to Safeguard the World's Peace', New York Times, Feb. 19, 1939. p. 85.
  5. ^ 'New Peace Plan Hailed by Lothian', New York Times, Mar. 6, 1939. p. 3.
  6. ^ 'Elijah *from Missoula', Time, Mar. 27, 1950.
  7. ^ George Orwell, 'Not Counting Niggers', The Adelphi, July 1939.


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