Nobel Nuggets, Part III

Mahatma Gandhi


Churchill, sitting in his country’s parliament, nominated Edvard Beneš, the Czechoslovakian president-in-exile. I find this nomination so typical of Churchill. A Nobel to Beneš would have been a neat black eye to the Nazis and other enemies of the peace and freedom of Europe. It also might have served as a rebuke to misguided appeasers.

People often want to know why Gandhi didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize. I will explain, briefly.

He was nominated many times, and shortlisted three times: in 1937, 1947, and 1948. He was a great pacifist, yes, but did his campaigns and demonstrations not sometimes lead to violence? (This was the committee’s thinking.) How universal a man was he? In South Africa, he helped the Indians, but what about the blacks? Did he not have a streak of Hindu nationalism in him?

It would have been tough to give him the prize in 1947: India and the new state, Pakistan, were at war, slaughtering each other. A prize to Gandhi would have looked like a preference for India and the Hindus over Pakistan and the Muslims.

So, 1948 — but Gandhi was assassinated in January. The committee did not think, at that time, that they could give a posthumous prize. They would give one such prize later — in 1961, to Dag Hammarskjöld.

Oil became a very, very big deal in our lives, and it started earlier than I would have thought. I want to quote to you from the Nobel lecture by John Boyd Orr — a Scottish nutritionist, pacifist, world-government advocate, and U.N. man. He won the prize in 1949.

Lecturing in Oslo, he said that “the control of oil-bearing land” had become “an important factor in the foreign policy of some governments.”

I’ll be damned.

Nineteen fifty-three saw a Nobel ceremony for George C. Marshall. The chairman of the committee, Gunnar Jahn, handed Marshall the customary trinkets: the Nobel medal and the “diploma,” or certificate. As he was performing this act, something strange happened: Three young Communist journalists in the balcony shouted a protest and dropped leaflets on the audience below. They shouted about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and said that Marshall was no peacemaker.

Marshall was calm and courtly. He looked on matter-of-factly. Jahn said to him, “Communists.” Marshall smiled knowingly.

But heck, why I am telling you all this, when you can see it for yourself? YouTube is a miracle and godsend: Go here.

The story is told that, sometime after the ceremony, Marshall remarked to someone that he was used to being jeered at by anti-Communists, not Communists — because some on the right back at home were incensed at President Truman’s policy of containment (versus a policy of “rollback”). Marshall had served in that president’s cabinet.

I wish there were a film of this: Albert John Lutuli won the peace prize for 1960. He was a South African — a Zulu chief, the president of the African National Congress, a dedicated Christian, and a great man.

At the prize ceremony, he said one of the funniest and most graceful things ever uttered at such a ceremony. He noted that the interior minister in South Africa had said that he, Lutuli, did not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. “Such is the magic of a peace prize,” said Lutuli, “that it has even managed to produce an issue on which I agree with the government of South Africa.”

Let’s break for today, friends. Thanks for joining me. Join me tomorrow, for Nuggets Part IV?

You may order Jay Nordlinger’s new book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World direct from National Review. Go here. Ask for a signature and an inscription, if you like. If you are interested in having the author speak before your group, contact him at [email protected]