Just in time for Christmas comes a publication from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Entitled "The Communication Tree," it contains photographs of communication devices, from drums to electronic marvels, and it has words from UNESCO's chief, Amadou Mahtar M'Bow, who announces:

"It is time that the promise held out to us by the convergence of our distinctive characteristics prevailed over the enticements of selfishness rooted in our longstanding ignorance of each other."

That exquisite sample of U.N.-speak is an example of your tax dollars at work, America. You pay 25 percent of UNESCO's bills. For that, the better restaurants and boutiques of Paris thank you. They are beneficiaries of the handsome salaries paid to the elephantine bureaucracy at UNESCO's headquarters. But on Jan. 1, black crepe will go up in the boutiques because that's when the United States withdraws from UNESCO. Happy New Year.

Last year the United States gave the required one-year notice of its intention to withdraw. Now Britain has done likewise. Drape more black crepe around UNESCO's army of chauffeurs and gardeners: Britain pays 5 percent of UNESCO's bills. (Eighty of the 161 countries contribute the minimum of .01 percent of the budget; 72 others contribute between .02 and 1.55 percent.)

An opponent of U.S. withdrawal blames "radical conservatives" who believe that "willingness to debate as equals amounts to defeatism." But members of UNESCO are not equals. They are not equally civilized. Only a tiny minority of member nations have preserved admirable traditions of education, science and culture. Why should they "debate" as equals, which they are not? Anyway, who thinks that what UNESCO does is "debate"? It is an echo chamber for Third World slogans about the "North-South dialogue" and "redistribution" of almost everything.

But UNESCO is primarily a jobs program for word merchants. An opponent of U.S. withdrawal says it is significant that "virtually every American organization that works with UNESCO, including federal agencies, has come to its defense." Well, yes, of course. Threaten the trough where the intelligentsia feeds and folks will fly to their typewriters.

UNESCO regards U.S. wealth as a scandal, except, of course, when that wealth is subsidizing Third World circuses like UNESCO. UNESCO does share its wealth with some Americans, many of whom are innocent of the sin of "ethnocentrism." (That is the belief that the West knows a thing or two the Third World could stand to learn.) Here is a thought from something called the U.S. Commission for UNESCO: "UNESCO is more than an institution, it is a work of art still being thought out and worked on, therefore fascinating by reason of its very incompleteness and unresolved 'enigmas.'

Say what?

A British commentator with a flair for the perfect phrase calls UNESCO "a Third World kleptocracy." It is that, but also is more, and worse. A few days before the British government announced its intention to withdraw, the editors of Encounter, the indispensable journal, sent to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher an article that must have stiffened her resolve. The author, Gordon Crovitz, notes that UNESCO churns out propaganda for state control of economic life and for "people's rights" rather than human rights. People's rights include such things as "the right of solidarity" and "the right to cultural identity." Such "rights" rationalize the use of power by totalitarian governments to suppress the individual in the name of the collective.

UNESCO perfectly reflects the United Nations itself, and therefore all the reasons for leaving UNESCO are some of, but not all of, the reasons for leaving the United Nations. Crovitz says UNESCO has met one goal: it has contributed to international understanding. Every observant person now understands that most nations in the "one nation, one vote" United Nations are hostile to democratic values. They are hostile because those values are subversive of those nations' dictators.

But the mere fact that UNESCO has engaged in an unrelenting assault on the moral foundations of the West was not sufficient to get it into hot water. No, its wide-ranging attack on democratic decencies went on without hindrance -- indeed, with democracies feeling obliged to foot the bill -- until it committed the tactical blunder of suggesting a "new world information and communication order." It had in mind the regulation of journalists.

At last, the rascals had gone too far. UNESCO has been tolerable when attacking everything else. Tolerable? UNESCO had been a church of progressive thought. It was one thing to revile the United States. But to be disrespectful of journalists . . . well! I mean, the nerve.