Year XLIII, 2001, Number 1, Page 57

  

 

ON THE TOPICALITY OF WORLD FEDERALISM
 
 
Nicoletta Mosconi was alone in the discussion on relations between European and world federalism. Yet this is a vitally important debate for those interested in the destiny of federalism as a political project and as an organised Movement. Explaining why this has happened is not easy. I think it is partly due to the difficulty of venturing among the impervious heights of theory and partly to the priority currently given to commitment towards the European Constitution on the part of those who take an active role in the political activities of the Movement.
The article published in The Federalist, n. 1, 2000,[1] though only by mention in a footnote, refers to me as representative of one of the two positions which emerged at the heart of the MFE (European Federalist Movement) relating to the position to be attributed to the objective of the world federation in federalist politics. As no other individuals or papers were quoted, except for my article published in issue n. 3, 1999 of The Federalist,[2] I draw the conclusion that the objections towards the world federalists refer to what I wrote in the above mentioned article.
There are three arguments used against the world federalists. a) They establish an equation between global interdependence and world unification; b) they abandon the idea of federalism in order to fall back on internationalistic and functionalistic positions; c) they claim to have a strategy, while there are no conditions for commitment in this field.
 
Interdependence and Unification.
 
The intent is that of supplying a more geometrico demonstratio. The reasoning poses strong central problems even though the solutions proposed are not always convincing. It simplifies and at times distorts the positions it rejects. The discussion on the relationship between interdependence and unification is typical of this view. The use of the word “unification” in the sense of political unification is a choice in terminology which Albertini proposed in one of his last papers.[3] My choice is different, but does not contradict Albertini’s thought. I simply use the word “unification” in a wider context than the political one. Instead of applying the distinction between integration and unification, I make a distinction between two degrees of a single process of unification: the social and the political. Albertini himself often used the expressions “unification of the world” and “unification of the human race” to indicate a social process, which has not yet assumed a political emphasis.[4] I have used the expression in such a way that it cannot be said that in the above mentioned article I established an automatic equation between political interdependence and unification. In actual fact I wrote with a wording that cannot be misinterpreted: “The end of the cold war did not coincide with the start of a process of political unification of the world” (and I underlined this sentence).[5] In other words, in my opinion, a process of world political unification is not in progress at present. I too have noticed the fact that, for the time being, no government has formulated plans to unify the world under the authority of a federal government. The hypothesis I put forward in the article quoted is as follows: the start of this process presupposes the formation of the European federation which I defined as “the vehicle of federalism in the world”, and the subsequent modification of the relationships of power in the world, to such an extent as to make a Euro-American equal partnership possible, seen as a requirement for the start of co-operative relations between all the great regions of the world.
 Of course, I have not professed to have formulated anything more than a simple hypothesis, which history will have to confirm or disprove. However, if we aim to have a serious discussion on the unification of the world, the point deserving closer attention is that which concerns the “relative autonomy of politics” with regard to the evolution of the mode of production.
Albertini, in the essay in which he distinguished between integration and unification, warned against mechanistic interpretations of the relationship between a set degree of integration and the corresponding degree of unification. According to this, each degree of development of historical and social processes should correspond to an equal degree of evolution of the politico-institutional processes. In reality, the relationship is more complex. The autonomy of politics performs an important task. Albertini observed the following on this subject: “There have been cases of constitutional unity with low degrees of integration, and cases of constitutional division with relatively high degrees of integration”.[6] This means that certain processes of political unification can be realised in advance of the evolution of the integration processes, others afterwards. An example of the first case is the formation of the United States of America. You only have to consider that, to reach Philadelphia, the first capital, used to take almost two weeks from New Hampshire and almost three from Georgia, while today it only takes a few hours from anywhere in the world to reach New York, the seat of the United Nations. Examples of the second case are the Italian and German unifications, which took place in the second half of the eighteen hundreds, when the second phase of the industrial revolution would have paved the way towards over-coming the national state.
In my opinion, Albertini’s reflections on the autonomy of politics must be developed in relation to the fact that European unification shows that in our era the processes of political unification are long-term processes, which encompass the formation of institutions common to the states involved in the process and their reinforcement until the goal of statehood has been reached. If the autonomy of politics plays a significant part also in these processes, then why not consider the International Criminal Courts (ICC) as an anticipation of the world federalist project?[7] It is the result of a convergence of strengths (the so-called like-minded states and the coalition of the NGOs) that do not see the ICC as a step towards world federation. Only the world federalists attribute this meaning to it, which confirms that we have not yet reached the political phase of world unification.
 
Compatibility of the Two Objectives.
 
Stating that a process of political unification of the world is not in progress means that for the moment and on a strategic level, conjectures can only be formulated for those conditions which pave the way for the beginning of political action for a realisation of world federation. We can only experiment with schemes of action for the pursuit of objectives which could come close to world federation, for it goes without saying that, at least for European federalists, the top priority is the unity of Europe.
However, the strategy does not represent the only fuel that ensures the survival of the Federalist Movement, besides which there is only the abstract and unrealistic position of the “pure of heart”. But is it really true that if a Movement is not committed to the pursuit of a precise strategic objective, then it has no political influence? Of course, strategy is the expression of a dimension of political life that claims to “change” the world and does not restrict itself to “interpreting it”, to use Marx’s words. We must recognise that what ensures allegiance to the Movement more than anything is its capacity to know history and to foresee the great turning points in European and world politics. True motivation and the daily fuel of political commitment on the part of those who take part in the life of the Federalist Movement, whether simply as members or as active militants, lies in being able to supply an answer to the serious problems of contemporary society. Adhesion to federalism depends above all on the strength of attraction exerted by its values and by the prospective of emancipation of mankind linked to these values, and furthermore on the capability of knowing contemporary society, of foreseeing the baseline of contemporary history and formulating autonomous political judgements on the main problems on the table.
Is it really true that nothing can be done today for world federation? It is not actually enough to state that today’s agenda does not include strategic action for world federation and to conclude that at the moment there is nothing to be done in pursuit of that objective. This is by no means settled and would mean losing sight of some of the objectives that can be pursued from now on. Albertini himself had indicated some of them such as the unification of European and world federalists (a project that has seen important progress over the last few years) and the use of this review as a vehicle for the dialogue between the two families of federalism (a project that conversely did not develop according to expectations).[8]
Should we accuse Albertini of strategic strabismus[9] because he pointed out these objectives at a time when the Federalist Movement was battling for a European currency? The fact is that the two objectives are not incompatible, just as short and long term objectives are not incompatible. Any human group, be it an association, a company or a family, knows this hierarchy of objectives and the relevant distribution of resources amongst the different objectives.
Other objectives in the field of cultural politics may be added to those identified by Albertini: to discuss and disseminate the political principles and perspectives of federalism. They are those of research and planning, of positions assumed to illustrate and defend the objective of world federation with regards to its opponents, of training and recruitment which are encountering growing difficulties, because the European federation is an objective that, alone, is no longer able to motivate young people to make life-choices.
It is worth remembering that when Albertini defined the distinction between political objective and strategic objective, he stated that while a strategic opportunity is not chosen but ascertained, since it does not depend on man’s will but on historical circumstances, the political objective represents the proposal of a new kind of organisation of power and is the object of a political choice. “This does not mean”, writes Albertini, “that there is nothing to be done until the strategic opportunity manifests itself”.[10] In actual fact it is a case of permanently mobilising all the existing or potential energies of the Movement and continually setting its own political plans against national models.
 
The Place of World Federation in History.
 
At this point it is important to ask why such a negative position on world federalism has been taken up within the Federalist Movement. From the analyses published recently in this review[11] is the hypothesis that the two objectives, European and world federation, are separated by such a long historical cycle as to make it impossible to plan political action for world federation, not just today, but even when the goal of European federation has been reached. The analogy suggested in these analyses is that the European federation represents the start of the formation of a world multipolar state system, just as the Treaty of Westphalia marked the beginning of the European state system. If the analogy were well-grounded, it would follow that, as the European federation only became a political objective after the Second World War, the problem of world unification will not mature for some centuries. This would be at precisely the moment when the unification of the other great regions of the world has been concluded.
The fact is that the analogy is groundless, since it does not take into account the two factors that make the two terms of comparison incommensurable. The first factor is the degree of integration between member states of the system. Historical materialism allows us to highlight a fact without precedents which has manifested itself in the contemporary world: the degree of economic and social integration at world level is such that it makes all the people and states of this planet increasingly tightly interdependent. It follows that, while processes of regional integration are underway in unequal degrees of development, all the regions of the world are involved in one process of integration on a world scale. There are certain increasingly numerous and important problems which even the most powerful state is unable to solve alone. From this stems the crisis of the sovereign state and the relevant need for international co-operation and development of international organisation.
The second factor is to do with the existence of a close net of international organisations from the UN to the IMF and WTO. These anticipate even if they don’t achieve world government, just as the European Community and the European Union are precursor institutions of the European federation. Of course the European Union and its progenitors, from the ECSC to the EEC, possess a much larger political consistency than the above mentioned world organisations. It is however undeniable that at the time of the Treaty of Westphalia the degree of economic and social integration between the States could not be compared to the current one on a world scale. Furthermore there was no form of international organisation because the States were self-sufficient political communities.
In order to find our bearings in the period of history in which we live, it is useful to take into consideration another factor which illustrates the unfounded analogy between the contemporary world and the Europe of Westphalia. I refer to the irruption on the political scene of movements of the international civil society, the so-called International Non-governmental Organisations, whose novelty and importance for the federalist action was identified by Albertini as far back as 1980.[12] The meaning of this phenomenon, widely studied by scientific literature and widely acknowledged on the political plan, is that the states are no longer the exclusive protagonists of world politics. This can be seen by the admission of NGOs, including the WFM, with a consultative role in the main international organisations and large world conferences. The formation of a global civil society is an expression of the decline of the sovereignty of even the most powerful states and of the emergence of the need for political institutions to regulate global civil society, and then a world government.
I believe that these facts are sufficient to draw the conclusion that the objective of world federation is not so distant as to prevent it from being seen as a political objective, even in the current absence of the conditions to set up a clear strategic action.
On the backdrop of the vision of contemporary history, proposed by this review after Albertini’s death, is the idea that after the fall of the blocks, world politics will continue according to traditional schemes of power politics. After the end of the Cold War in effect the world entered a new era in which there is no State which can aspire to world supremacy. If it is true that power politics survive in some parts of the planet, such as in the Indian subcontinent, it cannot be denied that on the whole it is in decline. The tendency towards a multipolar reorganisation of world power can only correspond to the need for joint leadership of the world and therefore the reinforcement and democratisation of the UN. It is therefore legitimate to formulate the hypothesis that the conditions for political commitment are maturing; in order to create new institutions on an international level and reform those of the UN, intended as intermediate steps on the path towards world federation.
Another historical analogy seems more adequate in steering thought towards an understanding of current changes in the contemporary world: the analogy with the era of the Second World War. These are years during which the transition between one world order and another matured. The ideas behind the Federalist Movement matured when Hitler conquered Europe (1941). The Federalist Movement organised itself when the strategic imperative was the war against nazism (1943), at a time when there was no room for political commitment to European federation, but only to the overthrowing of nazi-fascism, an indispensable premise of the commitment for the European federation.
 
Federalist Strategy after the Ratification of the European Constitution.
 
Furthermore, if the objective of world federation does not even appear on the horizon, the only choice open to the Federalist Movement after the ratification of the European Constitution will be political commitment within the European federation.[13] This would constitute a profound change in the concept of federalist politics, seen as “community opposition”, according to the formula used by Albertini.[14] In other words the choice of autonomy of the Federalist Movement from all the established powers would be questioned.
It must be emphasised here that the European federation does not constitute the end of the federalist revolution, but its beginning. On the one hand, the European federation will be the model to inspire current unification movements in other regions of the world those that are working on the democratic reform of the UN. European foreign policies will be the vehicle of federalism in the world. It is not by chance that the need for federal unification emerged to coincide with the debate on the European Constitution in Africa and in South America during two summit meetings held in the summer of 2000. Neither is it by chance that the Millennium Forum of Non Governmental Organisations has indicated among its objectives the creation of a Parliamentary Assembly of the UN.[15]
 On the other hand, it is not difficult to foresee that the European federation will be torn between two contradicting forces. Not only will the tendency of the European federation to remain an open political formation manifest itself, its vocation being that of promoting the development of federalism in the world. The opposite tendency will also be active; a tendency that will promote the closure and centralisation of power and in the last resort European Nationalism, even though the incentives to promote these policies will be much weaker than they were at the time of the world wars. It is obvious that the role of federalists will be that of supporting the first tendency and fighting the second.
Historical circumstances opening the way for strategic action present themselves intermittently. The political presence and cohesion of the Movement during periods characterised by a lack of strategic commitment are insured by something else: theoretical guidance (the analysis of the baseline of contemporary history) and political guidance (positions which highlight the inadequacy of the States’ institutions in providing answers to major problems and that propose the federalist alternative). It is on this ground that the recruitment of new forces can be developed, and the motivations to remain within the Movement can be fuelled. On the strategic front forces which have already chosen federalism are engaged, but there are no opportunities for recruiting new forces.
 
International Co-operation and the Federalist Strategy.
 
Let us now turn to the decidedly trenchant judgement by which I have been categorised as a functionalist and an internationalist. This is tantamount to an excommunication.
Firstly I am very happy that a statement of mine, which I consider to be very important, is shared by others. According to this statement international co-operation constitutes a premise for the pursuit of more advanced objectives relating to the transformation of the structure of the States system in a federal sense.
However I do not agree with the consequence drawn from it: “As long as collaboration… continues to work, then our role cannot be a strategic one”.[16] Is it not true that we defined as interim strategic objectives the direct election of the European Parliament, or the institution of the Euro and of the European Central Bank, and the acquisition of these objectives as one of our successes? The functioning of the European Community and the European Union, despite the achievement of these objectives which have changed its structure, continues to be based on the co-operation between the governments within the Council. In other words, the European Union continues to have a structure that is still confederal in substance. The fact is that, until the last battle, the objectives pursued by the federalists are acquired in a confederal context in which co-operation between governments represents a necessary factor for the European institutions to function.
It is not true that international co-operation cannot be one of the federalists’ objectives. It is not the ultimate objective, but it can be an intermediate objective when there is no strategic action for the attainment of federalist objectives.
The Briand-Stresemann agreement represented a progressive alternative to Hitler’s aggressive nationalism in the period between the two wars. Hallstein’s functionalistic recipes constituted a progressive alternative to the politics of the empty chair promoted by de Gaulle. When in March 1967, in occasion of the summit called for the tenth anniversary of the Rome treaties, on Piazza del Campidoglio, we organised the protests against intergovernmental Europe, Hallstein waved at us from high up on the balcony. This was a much more eloquent gesture than a thousand political statements and distinguished him from the heads of State and Government who were taking part in the summit. This gesture was an expression of understanding between the federalists and the President of the Commission and of an opposition to the confederal conception of Europe embodied by de Gaulle. Of course, this agreement did not overshadow the differences that separated us from Hallstein’s conception. This episode is significant because it illustrates the fact that politics continually create situations and divisions not chosen by the federalists, but which require us to make a stand. I have quoted two examples that allow me to highlight that, even when history does not offer strategic occasions, the federalists have a job to do: above all to make a stand.
Making a stand constitutes a vital need for any political organisation, but above all for political movements in pursuit of a profound change in society. They have the task of countering their own model of State with the existing one. Since Kant wrote Perpetual Peace and defined the first lines of the model of a peaceful society, it has been possible to identify an evolutionary line in history and a corresponding political commitment for the achievement of that objective. Of course, in Kant’s time, world federation was a distant final aim, of which the author of Perpetual Peace identified the main pre-requisites that are only now being realised. The first would have been fulfilled when the experience of the devastation of the war pushed humanity to renounce its “barbarous freedom” and the intolerable situation of international anarchy;[17] the second when the development of trade, “since the earth is a globe”, would have forced humans to resign themselves to live “in close proximity”;[18] the third when the evolution of the mankind would have reached the stage of the formation of republican States, founded that is, on the principles of liberty and equality.[19] In effect world wars, the globalisation process and the fall of the fascist and communist regimes are 20th Century events that have cleared the way for the affirmation of the federalist alternative.
On the basis of these indications, we can identify a chain of historical events and a possible line of action geared to realising those pre-requisites and thus indirectly to the pursuit of the objective of the world federation. It ensues that since the definition of this objective, discrimination is always possible between behaviour which is favourable or contrary to that objective and that respectively reinforce or weaken that perspective. Thus from that moment onwards, no political behaviour can be considered neutral with respect to the ultimate aim of world federalism and this is all the more true now that the goal is nearer.
If a distinction is made between two different categories of objectives, the pre-conditions of the federalist objectives and the federalist objectives in the strict sense, it is possible to clarify why that which promotes peace in one particular phase of history, may be at odds with it in another. International organisations, like the League of Nations or the European Community, are to be considered pre-conditions of the federalist action. Indeed a situation in which the States are willing to resolve their conflicts within intergovernmental bodies is necessary, but not sufficient, to pave the way for an action of federalist inspiration geared to overcoming the confederalist limits of those bodies. The League of Nations constituted the alternative to the solution of the world’s problems in militaristic and imperialistic terms in the period between the two world wars. Its survival represented a condition necessary, but not sufficient, for an action to overcome its limits. The European Community was instituted during a phase of crisis of the nation states which required economic co-operation between them in order to govern the process of European integration. During the period in which the common market was being built, instead, there was no space for federalist action of a strategic nature. This became possible when the insufficiency of the European institutions regarding the internal challenges (democratisation of the European institutions and European currency) and the international challenges (unification of foreign and security policy), which they had to face, became manifest.
At the moment it is not enough to affirm in the abstract that the European federation will contribute to the formation of a new world order and to disseminate the federalist model in the world if then there is a refusal to go into the transformations to be determined by the birth of the European federation in depth. The negation of any political significance of the proposals regarding the new Bretton Woods, the regionalisation of the Security Council, the creation of the International Criminal Court and of the UN Parliamentary Assembly[20] or to the creation of UN’s own resources and its Rapid Reaction Forces, is typical.
In another article, I attempted to highlight how these objectives which are weakly upheld today by the European Union (and which would be upheld by the European federation with far greater authority), ought to be considered as interim stages on the road of world federation[21] but I do not wish to return to this topic.
The fact is that those who refuse to participate in the global debate on the reform of the UN and of the other international organisations only do so because they consider these reforms disconnected from the objective of world federation and ignore that autonomous federalist positions on all these problems have been elaborated. If we actually participate in this debate, we will be able to demonstrate the objective aspects of the world unification process, and to indicate which intermediate aims the European federation, as it modifies the world order, will allow us to pursue. In this way it will be possible to influence public opinion and in particular the NGO community and thus modify the situation of power, at least regarding expectations. This occurred for example in the Millennium Forum, which in May 2000 approved the proposition of the WFM to institute a Parliamentary Assembly of the UN.
 
Deepening the Debate.
 
With the intention of clarifying everything, Nicoletta Mosconi concludes her presentation making a last and reckless step. It allows her to enter the depths of the souls of the persons she is addressing. Here she throws doors and windows wide open to expose the “psychological roots” of the two theoretical errors she denounced. These roots reside in impatience, which as everyone knows, Lenin considered a deadly sin for a revolutionary. It is worth remembering on this note that Lenin’s recipe was: “patience and irony”.
This digging into the psychological bases of political positions does not interest me as it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. I confined myself to examining a political position with which I do not share any aspects. I denounced those I find to be errors of perspective which translate into errors of political line and strategy: to consider world federation an objective so far away in time as to be irrelevant to us other than in terms of a distant ultimate goal; the refusal to attribute any interest for federalists in the debate on the reform of the UN and of the other international organisations and the subsequent assertion of the uselessness of participating in this debate; the proposal to limit political engagement by federalists in the ambit of the European federation, which would inevitably end up binding the destiny of the Federalist Movement to that of the European government and by converting into the choice of European nationalism. They are political choices that I believe are shared with a minority, or better still relatively isolated, and that already begin to assume sectarian characteristics. They are choices that in any case, should they prevail, would have negative effects, if not devastating on the future of the Federalist Movement.
Big political movements start to die when their plan nears completion. Their end is nigh when they no longer have the future on their side. In order for the Federalist Movement to survive we need to avoid closing ourselves in over-restricted world (a Europe isolated from the rest of the world) and to range over larger horizons (a Europe as vehicle of world federalism). Only in this perspective can federalism continue to present itself as a stimulating political and intellectual adventure.
Let us discuss unreservedly strategic alternatives that stand out on our horizon. The opening of the constituent phase of the European federation imposes this discussion as an imperative which cannot be deferred. We must consider the inheritance of Spinelli and of Albertini as an incomplete project open to the future. One that is our task to develop so as to face ever new challenges that history offers us. Our task is to set out along a road that others have begun to mark out and to seek the right direction, even if we run the risk of getting the direction wrong and being responsible for possible errors. We have to try and keep abreast of changes in society, taking into account that human reason has limits and that the future is uncertain even for those who claim to “march in the direction of history”.
To be up to this challenge, we need to undertake a long term programme of work that should lead us to the clarification of controversial issues. A work of this nature, apart from some isolated contributions, has not yet been undertaken in a systematic way. Instead we need to commit to an effort of theoretical elaboration with a co-operative attitude and with the willingness to subject ourselves, with the humility of those who seek the truth, to a critical analysis by anyone else. Before reaching the conclusion that we are no longer united by the same project, let us isolate the controversial issues and let us face each one with the attitude of those who seek the truth and work for a cause that ought to remain above personal ambition and prestige, in the knowledge that truth imposes itself sweetly and without forcing itself, because it is worthwhile and is in keeping with logic and experience.
 
Lucio Levi
 


[1] N. Mosconi, “Does Interdependence Equal Unification?”, in The Federalist, XLII (2000), pp. 68-75.
[2] L. Levi, “The Unification of the World as a Project and as a Process. The Role of Europe”, in The Federalist, XLI (1999), n. 3, pp. 150-193.
[3] M. Albertini, “L’unificazione europea e il potere costituente”, in Nazionalismo e federalismo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, pp. 290-92.
[4] M. Albertini, “Un progetto di Manifesto del federalismo europeo”, in Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., p. 61.
[5] L. Levi, op. cit., p. 162.
[6] M. Albertini, “L’unificazione europea e il potere costituente”, cit., p. 292.
[7] L. Levi, “Tribunale penale dell’ONU e giustizia internazionale”, in Il Dibattito federalista, XIV (1998), n. 3.
[8] M. Albertini, “Verso un governo mondiale”, in Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., pp. 201-207.
[9] F. Rossolillo uses this expression to contest the legitimacy of the position of those who pursue two objectives contemporaneously. See “European Federation and World Federation”, in The Federalist, XLI (1999), n. 2, p. 79.
[10] M. Albertini, “L’aspetto strategico della nostra lotta”, in Una rivoluzione pacifica. Dalle nazioni all’Europa, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, p. 327.
[11] See “The Long Path Towards the World Federation”, in The Federalist, XXXVIII (1996), n. 3 and “Moving Towards a World System of States”, in The Federalist, XL (1998), n. 3.
[12] M. Albertini, “Politica e cultura nella prospettiva del federalismo”, in Una rivoluzione pacifica, cit., p. 426.
[13] F. Rossolillo, op. cit., pp. 97-99.
[14] M. Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, cit., p. 71 and Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., pp. 132-33.
[15] L. Levi, “Globalisation and the Democratic Reform of the UN. A Comment on theMillennium Forum”, in The Federalist Debate, XII (2000), n. 3.
[16] N. Mosconi, op. cit., p. 72.
[17] I. Kant, Idea for a Universal History with Cosmopolitan Intent, in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company, 1983, pp. 34-36.
[18] I. Kant, To Perpetual Peace, ibid., p. 118.
[19] Ibid., p. 112.
[20] F. Rossolillo, op. cit., pp. 99-103.
[21] L. Levi, “The Unification of the World as a Project and as a Process. The Role of Europe”, cit., pp. 158-74 and pp. 177-88.

 

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