Evgeny Pashukanis

International Law


Mezhdunarodnoe pravo, Entsiklopediia gosudarstva i prava (1925-1926), lzd. Kommunisticheskoi akademii, Moscow, vol.2, pp.858-874.
From Evgeny Pashukanis, Selected Writings on Marxism and Law (eds. P. Beirne & R. Sharlet), London & New York 1980, pp.168-83, 184-5.
Translated by Peter B. Maggs.
Copyright © Peter B. Maggs. Published here by kind permission of the translator.
Downloaded from home.law.uiuc.edu/~pmaggs/pashukanis.htm
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International law (ius gentium, droit des gens, Völkerrecht) is usually defined as the totality of norms regulating the relationships between states. Here is a typical definition: “International law is the totality of norms defining the rights and duties of states in their mutual relations with one another”. [1] We find the same definition in the Germans Hareis, Holtsendorf, Bulmering, Liszt and Ulman; in the Belgian Rivie; in the Englishmen Westlake and Oppenheim; in the American Lawrence etc.

But absent from this formal, technical definition, of course, is any indication of the historical, i.e. the class character of international law. It is extremely clear that bourgeois jurisprudence consciously or unconsciously strives to conceal this element of class. The historical examples adduced in any textbook of international law loudly proclaim that modern international law is the legal form of the struggle of the capitalist states among themselves for domination over the rest of the world. However, bourgeois jurists try, as much as possible, to silence this basic fact of intensified competitive struggle, and to affirm that the task of international law is “to make possible for each state what none could do in isolation, by means of co-operation between many states”. [2]

Nor did the theorists of the Second International move far from these bourgeois jurists. Abandoning the class conception of the state, they were naturally compelled to discover in international law an instrument, standing outside and above classes, for the co-ordination of the interests of individual states and for the achievement of peace.

It was from this perspective that the well-known Bernstein [3], and the equally-famous Renner [4], approached international law. With great assiduity, both of these gentlemen stressed the “peaceful functions of international law”, but in so doing they forgot that the better part of its norms refer to naval and land warfare, i.e. that it directly assumes a condition of open and armed struggle. But even the remaining part contains a significant share of norms and institutions which, although they refer to a condition of peace, in fact regulate the same struggle, albeit in another concealed form. Every struggle, including the struggle between imperialist states, must include an exchange as one of its components. And if exchanges are concluded then forms must also exist for their conclusion.

But the presence of these forms does not of course alter the real historical content hidden behind them. At a given stage of social development this content remains the struggle of capitalist states among themselves. Under the conditions of this struggle, every exchange is the continuation of one armed conflict and the prelude to the next. Here lies the basic trait of imperialism.

Capitalists [wrote Lenin] divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to receive profit. And they divide it “in proportion to capital”, “in proportion to strength”, because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism. But strength varies with the level of economic and political development. In order to know what is taking place, it is necessary to know what questions are decided by the changes in strength. The question of whether these changes are “purely” economic or extra-economic (military, for example) is secondary ... To substitute the question of the content of the struggle and agreements (today peaceful, tomorrow warlike, the next day peaceful again), is to descend to sophistry. [5]

When Renner depicts the development of international law as the growth of institutions which ensure the general interest of all states, and when he tries to show that this development has been retarded by the larcenous and selfish policy of only one of the states, Great Britain, then he too descends to sophistry. He must, moreover, be in the service of Austro-German imperialism (Renner’s book was published before the Central Powers were defeated by the Entente). Conversely, we can see that even those agreements between capitalist states which appear to be directed to the general interest are, in fact, for each of the participants a means for jealously protecting their particular interests, preventing the expansion of their rivals’ influence, thwarting unilateral conquest, i.e. in another form continuing the same struggle which will exist for as long as capitalist competition exists. One may instantiate any international organization, even the international commissions for the supervision of navigation on the erstwhile “treaty rivers” (the Rhine, the Danube, and after Versailles, the Elbe and the Oder). Let us begin with the fact that the very composition of these commissions perfectly reflects specific relations of forces, and is usually the result of war. After the World War, therefore, Germany and Russia were ousted from the European Commission on the Danube. At the same time the Commission on the Rhine was transferred to Strasbourg and fell into French hands. Under the Treaty of Versailles, the very transformation of German rivers into treaty rivers, which were controlled by international commissions, was an act which divided the spoils among the victors. The International Administration of Tangiers, a port in Morocco where the interests of France, England and Spain intersect, is the same type of organization for joint exploitation and supervision. A final and typical example is the International Organization for the Extortion of Reparations from Germany (q.v.): the reparation commission and all types of supervisory agencies envisioned by the expert’s plan. As soon as some power feels strong enough to take the plunder into its exclusive possession, it starts to combat internationalization (q.v.). Thus, at the 1883 London Conference, Tsarist Russia succeeded in placing the Kiliisky branch of the Danube outside the control of the European Commission provided for by the international treaty of 1889. The Commission for the Supervision of the Neutralization of the Suez Canal could not be constituted at all: it was eliminated by a separate agreement between England and France, whereby the first bought itself freedom of action in Egypt in exchange for the latter’s taking of Morocco (English-French Convention of April 8th, 1904). The struggle among imperialist states for domination of the rest of the world is thus a basic factor in defining the nature and fate of the corresponding international organizations.

There remain the comparatively few and narrowly-specialized interstate agreements. These have a technical character and correspond to purposeful combines or so-called international administrative unions, for example the International Postal Union. These organizations do not serve primarily as an arena for the struggle between administrative groupings, but they occupy a secondary and subordinate position. The origin of most of these organizations was in the 1870s and 1880s, i.e. in the period when capitalism (q.v.) had still not fully developed its monopoly and imperialist traits. The intensified struggle for the division of the world has moved forward to such an extent since that time, that the actual ability of capitalist states to serve general economic and cultural needs has diminished rather than expanded. In this respect a very clear regression was marked by the World War in that it caused the downfall of a whole series of cultural (in particular) and, for example, scientific links.

The bourgeois jurists are not entirely mistaken, however, in considering international law as a function of some ideal cultural community which mutually connects individual states. But they do not see, or do not want to see, that this community reflects (conditionally and relatively, of course) the common interests of the commanding and ruling classes of different states which have identical class structures. The spread and development of international law occurred on the basis of the spread and development of the capitalist mode of production. However, in the feudal period the knights of every European country had their codes of military honour and, accordingly, their class law, which they applied in wars with one another; but they did not apply them in inter-class wars, for example in the suppression of burghers and the peasantry. The victory of the bourgeoisie, in all the European countries, had to lead to the establishment of new rules and new institutions of international law which protected the general and basic interests of the bourgeoisie, i.e. bourgeois property. Here is the key to the modern law of war.

While in feudal Europe the class structure was reflected in the religious notion of a community of all Christians, the capitalist world created its concept of “civilization” for the same purposes. The division of states into civilized and “semi-civilized”, integrated and “semi-integrated” to the international community, explicitly reveals the second peculiarity of modern international law as the class law of the bourgeoisie. It appears to us as the totality of forms which the capitalist, bourgeois states apply in their relations with each other, while the remainder of the, world is considered as a simple object of their completed transactions. Liszt, for example, teaches that “the struggle with states and peoples who are outside the international community must not be judged according to the law of war, but according to the bases of the love for mankind and Christianity”. To assess the piquancy of this assertion recall that, at the time of the colonial wars, the representatives of these lofty principles, e.g. the French in Madagascar and the Germans in Southwest Africa, liquidated the local population without regard for age and sex.

     The real historical content of international law, therefore, is the struggle between capitalist states. International law owes its existence to the fact that the bourgeoisie exercises its domination over the proletariat and over the colonial countries. The latter are organized into a number of separate state-political trusts in competition with one another. With the emergence of Soviet states in the historical arena, international law assumes a different significance. It becomes the form of a temporary compromise between two antagonistic class systems. This compromise is effected for that period when one system (the bourgeois) is already unable to ensure its exclusive domination, and the other (proletarian and socialist) has not yet won it. It is in this sense that it seems possible, to us, to speak of international law in the transitional period . The significance of this transitional period consists in the fact that open struggle for destruction (intervention, blockade, non-recognition) is replaced by struggle within the limits of normal diplomatic relations and contractual exchange. International law becomes inter-class law, and its adaptation to this new function inevitably occurs in the form of a series of conflicts and crises. The concept of international law during the transitional period was first put forth, in Soviet literature, by E. Korovin. [6]

Finally, international law assumes an entirely different meaning as the inter-state law of the Soviet states. It now ceases to be a form of temporary compromise behind which an intensified struggle for existence is hidden. Because of this the very opposition between international law and the state, so characteristic of the preceding period, disappears. The proletarian states, not having merged formally into one federation or union, must present in their mutual relationships an image of such a close economic, political and military unity, that the measure of “modern” international law becomes inapplicable to them.

Turning now to consider the legal form of international law, we will first note that orthodox theory considers the subject of international legal relations to be the state as a whole, and only the state. “Only states are subjects of international law, the bearers of international legal obligations and powers.” [7] The real historical premise for this viewpoint is the formation of a system of independent states which have, within their boundaries, a sufficiently strong central power to enable each of them to act as a single whole. “The sovereignty of the state, i.e. its independence from any authority standing above it-this is the basis of international law.” [8]

These premises were historically realized in Europe only at the end of the Middle Ages, in the period of the formation of absolute monarchies which consolidated their independence, with respect to Papal authority, and which severed internal resistance by the feudal lords. The economic basis of this was the development of mercantile capital. The emergence of standing armies, the prohibition of private wars, the instigation of state enterprises, customs and colonial policy – these are the real facts which lie at the heart of the theory of the state as the sole subject of the international legal community. The Catholic Church, which had claimed the position of supreme leader of all the Christian states, was delivered a decisive blow by the Reformation. The Treaty of Westphalia, which in 1648 proclaimed the basis of equality between the Catholic and the “heretical” (Protestant) states, is considered the basic fact in the historical development of modern (i.e. bourgeois) international law.

The revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made further strides along the same road. They completed the process of separating state rule from private rule, and transformed political power into a special force and the state into a special subject. The legal relations of the state flowed independently, and they were not to be confused with those persons who at any given moment were the bearers of state authority. Having subordinated itself to the state machine, the bourgeoisie brought the principle of the public nature of authority to its clearest expression. It may be said that the state only fully becomes the subject of international law as the bourgeois state. The victory of the bourgeois perspective over the feudal-patrimonial perspective was expressed, among other things, in the denial of the binding force of dynastic treaties for the state. Thus, in 1790 the National Assembly of France rejected the obligations which flowed from the family treaty of the house of Bourbon (1761), on the grounds that Louis XV had acted as a representative of the dynasty and not as a representative of France.

It is typical that at the same time as French authors (Bonfils, for example) consider this rejection to be proper, German monarcho-reactionary professors (Heffken) find that the National Assembly violated international law in this action.

The Roman Papacy is a curious vestige of the Middle Ages. After the Church entered the constituency of Italy in 1870, the Pope continued extra territorially to enjoy the right to send and receive ambassadors, i.e. he had certain essential attributes of sovereign authority. When bourgeois Jurists are forced to explain a phenomenon which contradicts their doctrine, they usually argue that the Papal throne occupies a quasi international status and that it is not in the strict sense a subject of international law.

In fact, of course, the influence of the leader of the Catholic Church is no less in international affairs than that of the League of Nations (q.v.). All authors classify the latter as an exception to the independent subjects of international law along with individual states. As a separate force which set itself off from society, the state only finally emerged in the modern bourgeois capitalist period. But it by no means follows from this that the contemporary forms of international legal intercourse, and the individual institutions of international law, only arose in the most recent times. On the contrary, they trace their history to the most ancient periods of class and even pre-class society. To the extent that exchange was not initially made between individuals, but among tribes and communities, it may be affirmed that the institutions of international law are the most ancient of legal institutions in general. Collisions between tribes, territorial disputes, disputes over borders – and agreements as one of the elements in these disputes – are found in the very earliest stages of human history. The tribal pre-state life of the Iroquois, and of the ancient Germans, saw the conclusion of alliances between tribes. The development of class society and the appearance of state authority make contracts and agreements among authorities possible. The treaty between Pharaoh Rameses II and the King of the Hittites is one of the oldest surviving documents of this type. Other forms of relationships are equally universal: the inviolability of ambassadors; the custom of exchanging hostages; one might also point to the ransoming of prisoners, the neutrality of certain areas, and the right to asylum. All these practices were known and used by the peoples of the distant past. Ancient Rome observed various forms for the declaration of war (ius fetiale), concluded treaties, received and sent ambassadors. The ambassadors of foreign countries enjoyed inviolability etc. A special college of herald-priests dealt with these rules in Rome, and the majority of legal rules were protected by the gods at that time. The sanction of religion did not, however, prevent the fact that they were sometimes violated in the grossest manner.

On the other hand, a series of rules were formed which related to international intercourse. These were necessary both for regulating conflicts among tribes and peoples, and also for ensuring commercial exchange between individuals who belonged to different clans and tribes. Later, these rules were extended to include state organizations. In this way so-called private international law developed (q.v.).

For example, during the period when Athens was flourishing, there were no less than 45,000 foreign inhabitants. They enjoyed all civil rights and were protected by a representative elected from their midst (embryos of consular representation). The protection of foreigners thus applied to merchants who were temporary residents. We see the same phenomenon in ancient Rome where the special office of praetor peregrinus was instituted for the hearing of foreigners’ judicial cases. Moreover, the so-called actiones fictitiae aided in overcoming those strict requirements of Roman procedure which gave the foreigner no possibility of defending his rights.

In the understanding of the Roman jurists, the law of nations (ius gentium) embraced equally that which is now termed public international law, and also that which is inaccurately termed private international law. Thus, for example, we read in the Digests: “By this law of nations (ius gentium), wars are waged, nations are divided, kingdoms are founded, property is distributed, fields are enclosed, buildings are erected, trade, purchases, sales, loans and obligations are established – with the exception of certain transactions that are conducted in civil law.” [9] From this list it seems that the essential characteristic of international law was deemed to be not merely that it regulated relations (borders, war, peace etc.) among states but, and in contrast to the ius civile, that it established the basis of a legal community devoid of local peculiarities and free from tribal and national colouration. These universal rules could be nothing other than a reflection of the general conditions of exchange transactions, i.e. they were reduced to the bases of the equal rights of owners, the inviolability of ownership and the consequent compensations for damages and freedom of contract. The bond between the ius gentium – in the sense of laws inherent in all nations – and norms regulating the mutual relations of states, was consciously strengthened by the first theorist of international law, Hugo Grotius (1583-1684). His whole system depends on the fact that he considers relations between states to be relations between the owners of private property; he declares that the necessary conditions for the execution of exchange, i.e. equivalent exchange between private owners, are the conditions for legal interaction between states. Sovereign states co-exist and are counterposed to one another in exactly the same way as are individual property owners with equal rights. Each state may “freely” dispose of its own property, but it can gain access to another state’s property only by means of a contract on the basis of compensation: do ut des.

The feudal-patrimonial structure greatly aided the theory of territorial rule in acquiring a clearly civilist hue. Suzerains or “Landesherren” considered themselves as the owners of those holdings over which their authority extended; the holdings were thought of as their private right, a subject of alienation by the owner. Entering into relations with one another, they disposed of their holdings as owners dispose of their objects, and alienated them according to the system of private (Roman) law. From the very beginning, therefore, many of the institutions of international law had a private law foundation – including the theory of modi aecuirendi dominii in international relations. Other methods were also recognized: inheritance, dowry, gift, purchase and sale, exchange, occupation, prescription.

On the basis of natural law doctrine, Grotius’s ideas continued to be developed by subsequent theorists: Puffendorf (1632-1694), Tomasius (1655-1728), Wolff (1679-1754), Vattel (1714-1767) and Burlamaki (1694-1748). These theorists laid the foundation for an abstract or philosphical theory of law. In contrast to this school, which had given preference to abstract, concepts, there began the collection and systematization of actual international customs and treaties and the study of international practice. The forefather of this positive, historico-pragmatic school is considered to be Zouch (1590-1669), an Oxford professor and Admiralty judge; the Dutchman Binkerskuch (1673-1743), and Martens (1756-1821) were later representatives. The doctrine of natural law ceased to enjoy the recognition of most jurists in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, even in our day Grotius’s formulae continue to exist in international law textbooks, under the guise of so-called “basic or absolute rights” of the state. For example, Hareis in Institutionen des Volkerrechts (1888), lists four such “basic rights”: the right to self-preservation; the right to independence; the right to international exchange; and the right to respect.

We read exactly the same in Liszt: “From this basic idea (international legal intercourse] directly follows a whole series of legal norms, by which are defined the mutual rights and obligations of states and do not require any special treaty recognition in order to have obligatory force.

They comprise a firm (!) basis for all the unwritten legal rules of international law, and are its oldest, most important and holiest content.” [10] It is most obvious that we are dealing here with ideas drawn from the sphere of civil law relationships with a basis in equality between the parties.

To a certain degree the analogy may be extended. Bourgeois private law assumes that subjects are formally equal yet simultaneously permits real inequality in property, while bourgeois international law in principle recognizes that states have equal rights yet in reality they are unequal in their significance and their power. For instance, each state is formally free to select the means which it deems necessary to apply in the case of infringements of its right: “however, when a major state lets it be known that it will meet injury with the threat of, or the direct use of force, a small state merely offers passive resistance or is compelled to concede.” [11] These dubious benefits of formal equality are not enjoyed at all by those nations which have not developed capitalist civilization and which engage in international intercourse not as subjects, but as objects of the imperialist states’ colonial policy.

In civil law transactions, however, the relationships between the parties assume legal form not only because they derive from the logic of objects (from the logic of the exchange act, more accurately), but also because this form finds real support and defence in the apparatus of judicial and state authority. Legal existence is materialized in a special sphere, partitioned off from the intrusion of naked fact. In his language the lawyer expresses this by asserting that every subjective right depends upon an objective norm, and that private legal relationships arose because of the public legal order. Moreover, in international law the subjects of legal relationships are the states themselves as the bearers of sovereign authority. A series of logical contradictions follows from this. For the existence of international law it is necessary that states be sovereign (for sovereignty in any given case is equated with legal capacity). If there are no sovereign states then there are no subjects of the international law relationship, and there is no international law. But, on the other hand, if there are sovereign states, then does this mean that the norms of international law are not legal norms? For in the opposite case, they must possess an external power which constrains the state, i.e. limits its sovereignty. Conclusion: for international law to exist it is necessary that states not be sovereign. Bourgeois jurisprudence has devoted a great amount of fruitless effort in solving this contradiction. For instance, Pruess – the author of the present German (Weimar) Constitution tended to the position of sacrificing the concept of sovereignty for the sake of international law. Conversely, writers such as Zorn and, most recently, Wendel, are more ready to abandon supra-state international law. However, these dogmatic arguments change nothing in reality. No matter how eloquently the existence of international law is proved, the fact of the absence of an organizational force, which could coerce a state with the same ease as a state coerces an individual person, remains a fact. The only real guarantee that the relationships between bourgeois states (and in the transitional period with states of another class type) will remain on the basis of equivalent exchange, i.e. on a legal basis (on the basis of the mutual recognition of subjects), is the real balance of forces. Within the limits set by a given balance of forces, separate questions may be decided by compromises and by exchange, i.e. on the basis of law. Even then there is the qualification that each government calls upon law when its interests demand it, and in every way will try to avoid fulfilling some norm if it is profitable for it. [12] In critical periods, when the balance of forces has fluctuated seriously, when “vital interests” or even the very existence of a state are on the agenda, the fate of the norms of international law becomes extremely problematic.

This particularly relates to the imperialist period, with its unprecedented intensification of the competitive struggle which derives from the monopolisitic tendencies of finance capital, and from the fact that after the whole globe has already been divided then further expansion can only occur at the expense of robbing one’s neighbour.

The best illustration of this is afforded by the last war, of 1914-1918, during which both sides continuously violated international law. With international law in such a lamentable condition, bourgeois jurists can be consoled only with the hope that, however deeply the balance was disturbed, it will nevertheless be reestablished: the most violent of wars must sometime be ended with peace, the political passions raised by it must gradually be reconciled, the governments will return to objectivity and compromise, and the norms of international law will once again find their force. However, in addition to this hope the fact is adduced, as an argument in favour of the positive nature of international law, that every state in violating international law also tries to depict the matter as if there had been no violation whatsoever. We find in Ulman, for example, this curious reference to state hypocrisy as proof of the positive nature of international law. Another group of jurists simply deny the very existence of international law. Among them is the founder of the English school of positivist jurisprudence, Austin. Defining “law in the proper sense”, as an order emanating from a definite authority and strengthened by a threat in the case of disobedience, he finds that international law is contradictio in adjecto. “To the extent that it is law, it is not international; to the extent that it is truly international, it is not law.” Gumplowicz holds the same opinion: “In a definite sense international law is not law inasmuch as state law also is not law.” [13] Lasson says: “The norms of international law are but rules of state wisdom which the state follows having in mind its own welfare, and from which it can deviate as soon as its vital interests so demand.” [14]

But the perspective of Austin, Lasson, Gumplowicz and others is not shared by the majority of bourgeois jurists. The open denial of international law is politically unprofitable for the bourgeoisie since it exposes them to the masses and thus hinders preparations for new wars. It is much more profitable for the imperialists to act in the guise of pacifism and as the champions of international law.

Therefore, for example, the English writer Walker [15] censures the terminological cavils of Austin, who did not want to define international law as law in the proper sense, and who exclaims “it is better to permit peace and passivity to reign without correct terminology, than to permit accuracy of language to exist with the spirit of lawlessness!”

jurists who preach the cult of force in international relations are both useless to the bourgeoisie (it needs not preaching, but real force), and also dangerous because they conceal the irreconcilability of the contradictions of capitalist society, and because they compromise peace and tranquility needed even by a thief when he has had his fill and is digesting his spoils.

From the Marxist perspective this nihilist criticism of international law is in error since, while exposing fetishism in one area, it does so at the cost of consolidating it in others. The precarious, unstable and relative nature of international law is illustrated in comparison with the largely firm, steady and absolute nature of other types of law. In fact, we have here a difference in degree. For only in the imagination of jurists are all the legal relationships within a state dominated one hundred per cent by a single state “will”. In fact, a major portion of civil law relationships are exercised under influence of pressures limited to the activities of subjects themselves. Furthermore, only by taking the viewpoint of legal fetishism is it possible to think that the legal form of a relationship changes or destroys its real and material essence. This essence, on the contrary, is always decisive. The formalization of our relationship with bourgeois states, by way of treaties, is part of our foreign policy, and is its continuation in a special form. A treaty obligation is nothing other than a special form of the concretization of economic and political relationships. But once the appropriate degree of concretization is reached, it may then be taken into consideration and, within certain limits, studied as a special subject. The reality of this object is no less than the reality of any constitution – both may be overturned by the intrusion of a revolutionary squall.

It is commonplace to distinguish a general and a special component in relation to the systematization of international law. The first contains the theory of the state as the subject of international law. Here lies the theory of sovereignty, the various forms of limiting sovereignty, the theory of international law and legal capacity etc. Starting from the traditional division of the state into three elements – authority, territory and population – most treatises include within this general component the regulation of territorial questions (borders, territorial waters, methods of territorial acquisition etc.), and population questions (citizenship, preference, etc.). The special component considers the organization and forms of international legal relationships – here he diplomatic and consular representation, international courts and other international organizations, the theory of international treaties etc. Further conceptual areas are usually delineated as regulatory international legal agreements (transportation, commerce, navigation, post and telegraphy, the battle with epidemics, the protection of property etc.). Finally comes the part dedicated to the law of war. This is usually prefaced with a consideration of the peaceful means of settling conflicts (arbitration decisions). The law of war may be divided into the law of military war, the law of naval warfare and the theory of the rights and obligations of neutral states.


Sources of international law

To the extent that states have no external authority above them which could establish their norms of conduct, then in the technical legal sense the sources of international law are custom and treaty. In Liszt’s opinion both of these sources may be reduced to one – this is the “general legal ideology of states”, which is expressed partly in the form of legal practice, and partly in the form of the direct and overt establishment of law by way of agreement. But since (a) it is not always easy to decide which ideology is general and which ideology is “legal”, and (b) the practice of the different states at any one time, and the practice of any one state at different times, are far from the same – in fact, therefore, the source of the norms of even customary international law is drawn from the opinions of “writers”, or scholars, who usually differ decisively with each other on every question. Common, therefore, are citations to the “majority” or to the “overwhelming” majority of authorities. If one further notes that each of these authorities consciously or unconsciously defends those positions which are or seem beneficial to his own state, then one can imagine how hopeless will be the application of customary international law to the decision of any serious dispute.

The norms of written international law, which are fixed in treaties and agreements, are of course distinguished by comparatively greater precision. But there are rather few such treaties which could establish general rules or, expressed in technical language, which could create objective international law. The most important of these are: the acts of the Congress of Vienna (1815); the Paris Declaration on the Law of Naval Warfare (1856); the Geneva Conventions (1856 and 1906); the General Acts of the Hague Peace Conference (1899 and 1907); the London Declaration on the Law of Naval Warfare (1909); the League of Nations Treaty (1919); and certain declarations of the Washington Conference (1921) etc. However, parts of these treaties were not concluded by all states – just by some of them – and therefore the norms created by these agreements may not, strictly speaking, assume the significance of norms of general international law. There are only particular international laws effective within the circle of states which signed them or which later adhered to them. There are, accordingly, few generally recognized written norms of international law.

Finally, the decisions of international tribunals, arbitration panels and other international organizations are usually adduced as sources of international law. Anglo-Saxon jurists add the judicial practice of national courts, especially so in prize cases and in internal legislation dealing with questions of international significance.




1. H. Bonfils, Traite de droit international public (1894), Rousseau, Paris, p.1.

2. J. Louter, Le droit international public positif (1920), Oxford, p.17.

3. E. Bernstein, Völkerrecht und Völkerpolitik (1919).

4. K. Renner, Marxismus, Krieg und Internationale (1918), Vienna.

5. V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), LCW, vol.22, p.253.

6. E. Korovin, International Law of the Transitional Period (1924), Moscow.

7. F. Liszt, Das Volkerrecht (1925), Fleischmann, Berlin, sec.5.

8. Loening, Die Gerichtsbarkeit über fremde Souveräne (1903), sec.83.

9. 1, 5 Digests, 1, 1.

10. F. Liszt, International Law (1913), Russian translation from the 6th edition, edited by V.E. Grabar, p.81.

11. V.E. Grabar, The Basis of Equality between States in Modern International Law (1912), Publishing House of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, book 1.

12. L. Oppenheim, International Law: A Treatise (1905), Longmans, Green & Co., vol.1, p.65.

13. L. Gumplowicz, Allgemeines Staatsrecht (1907), sec.415.

14. G. Lasson, Prinzip und Zukunft des Völkerrechts (1871), p. 49.

15. T.A. Walker, A History of the Law of Nations, n.d., p.19.

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Last updated on 13.5.2004