[gha] Re: Garry Davis

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Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2013 10:42:27 
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Subject: [gha] Garry Davis

Garry Davis: « And Now  the People Have The Floor » 
Rene Wadlow 

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”. 
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 
is located in Paris — and UNESCO’s  emphasis on understanding among 
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 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  
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”. 
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 
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 
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  
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 
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 
and declare the  new”. 
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 
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 
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 
 important role in structuring the world citizen  movement. 
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 
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 
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 
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.  
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 
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 
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). 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 
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 
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, 
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. 
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 
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, 
2)     Garry Davis.Over to Pacifism:A  Peace News Pamphlet (London: Peace 
News, 1949) 
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World  Citizens 

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