During the economic crisis of 1929, States rejected the idea of finding an international solution through the League. Confidence in it was no longer dominating, if it has already tried reigned. Indeed, economic depression made some countries stronger and wealthier such as: Japan and Italy and allowed dictators to take over power (e.g.: Nazis in Germany). So, what led to its breakdown?


The League operated a distinction between members called “originating” and others. There were 32 founding States. The United States has never joined the League because the Congress refused to be involved in the European disputes and decided to adopt an isolated policy towards the rest of the world. Similarly, both Germany and Russia were not allowed to join it for their war crimes. In reality, the League depended mainly on France and Britain; the British and French had done so much to bring the league into being and it depended so heavily upon them for its continued existence. The League, therefore, resembled a club of winners, with the largest force against the defeated countries.

Complex Assembly

Members of the league met only once a year in Geneva and their decisions were unanimously because the balance of the needs of collective action with respect to the legal independence of States cannot be engaged in an action against their will. Yet, the veto of a State institution had reduced inefficiency. This made the league very complex and slow in taking decisions.

Ineffective Sanctions

* Verbal Sanction: Disputed States had to meet in the League`s Assembly and try to solve their disagreements peacefully. However, the League had to introduce verbal sanctions if the invader country refused to obey its decisions. Yet, verbal warnings were no longer effective since countries ignored the League as a whole.
* Economic Sanction: Members had to stop trading with aggressors if the League ordered economic sanctions on them. The league prevented all financial, commercial and personal affairs between its members and aggressors. However, this sanction was not effective since the latter can still trade with the US as long as it has never been a member. Unexpectedly, both Britain and France betrayed the League and refused to stop trading with Mussolini for their personal interests when the League ordered economic sanction on Italy during its invasion for Abyssinia.
*Armed Sanction: The League has never had an armed force as its sole aim was to solve disputes through peaceful negotiations. Indeed, this entity depended heavily on France and Britain who were totally struggling after the First World War. Consequently, all sanctions did not function as it was planned in the Versailles Treaty.

Examples of the League’s breakdown

* Japan against the League:

The Japanese army bombed the cities of China in 1931 because the country wanted to capture Manchuria. The Assembly proposes to Manchuria self-government while keeping it within the Chinese state. Therefore Japan decided to leave the Assembly. League`s failure to coerce Japan must necessarily mean that sanctions would never be effectively applied against a great power. This experience did not just demonstrate the failure of the League, but also, proved that a great power could commit an assault without fear of sanctions.

* The case of Germany:

• The Saar referendum of 1935 was in favour in Germany: This offered a moment`s escape from the pervasive melancholy of the 1930s. This vote reflected an opposition before leaving the territory of Geneva. So, the league seemed to have missed an opportunity to strengthen its power in the Saar.
• Violation of the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles: In the 14th of October 1933, the German government under Hitler announced simultaneous withdrawal of the Disarmament Conference and the League. This experience is the fatal blow to the League. European countries felt threatened by Germany and seeks alliance. Therefore, the USSR joined the League of Nations in the 18th of September 1934.

* Italy against the League

Securing a colony in Abyssinia has always been Mussolini`s dream. For raising its economy, the Italian Duke announced that Wali-Wali was under Italian rule. Haile Selassie believed that Wali-Wali was in his own territory and Italians claimed that it belonged to Italian Somaliland. Clearly, hostilities were arisen without declaration of war in the 3rd of October 1935 after calling the Negus in the League. The Italian victory became a reality May 9, 1936 with the invasion of Ethiopia and Italy resigned from the League in 1937.

After 1930, the league faced difficulties in surviving. This mainly was because it was not strong enough since the beginning of its creation; the League (of Nations) failed because it could not create actions from its words.