Year XLVII, 2005, Number 1, Page 3
Francesco Rossolillo, editor of this journal since 1997, when he succeeded its founder, Mario Albertini, has died. Rossolillo’s theoretical contribution to federalism, always accompanied by an active militant stance within the European Federalist Movement and the European Union of Federalists (which he served as president for a number of years) is reflected particularly in The Federalist, which, during its almost 50-year history, has contained many of his essays, comments and political documents: writings that are still referred to and whose structural elements continue to be used today.
Francesco Rossolillo always placed great store by the origination of culture, convinced that the political and organizational autonomy of the federalist movement is founded on the cultural autonomy of its members. Autonomy on all fronts, he believed, is the condition that allows federalists to play to the full their role as groundbreakers and sowers of the seeds of change.
“The only motivation — he wrote in an editorial published in The Federalist Debate —, in the absence of power and money, that can prompt a militant to persevere, sometimes for decades, in what is often a thankless and difficult endeavour, is the awareness of our indispensable historical role: the awareness that we are the ones who are mapping out a new way forward, who have a perspective that allows us to understand the meaning of the changes taking place, changes that the schemes of traditional ideologies no longer allow us to interpret. It is an eminently cultural awareness. Hence, …politics and culture are two inseparable aspects of the federalist’s work. This means that it is up to federalists themselves to develop their culture.”
This indicated neither presumption nor isolation. Culture always means reciprocal exchange, and “conservation” is always an element of the development, in revolutionary times, of a new culture. According to Rossolillo, “simple negation is not part of the attitude of the true revolutionary who, to use Hegel’s terminology, rejects not the reality he fights, but rather the partiality of that reality. He seeks not to suppress it, but rather to overcome it, incorporating it into a more comprehensive reality. The action of the revolutionary”, like the culture he develops, “is thus both negation and conservation”. (“Note sulla coscienza rivoluzionaria”, in Il Politico, 1970, n. 2, p. 329). This is the mechanism that, in political revolutions, allows the Hegelian dialectic overcoming and leads to a breaking free from the categorical structure that underlies normal politics, and to a weakening of the political formula, or “the structure that governs the struggle for power”.
For revolutionary groups, therefore, theorizing is a crucial part of their activity, because it is up to them, in pre-revolutionary phases, to shed light where there is darkness and indicate the path that must be followed in order to overcome the difficulties and confusion of a political language that has lost the capacity to reflect and embody the reality of social life.
It is a difficult task, because the “the logic of revolutionary action obliges those who are committed to it not to limit themselves to bringing within sight the alternative to the existing political formula, but to place that alternative in the context of a general view of historical development, and of the ultimate values for whose realization it paves the way. This is because men cannot be mobilized for a long and difficult struggle only in the name of a defined political objective that, precisely because it is defined, negates more values than it realizes, but only in the name of the liberation of mankind’s very essence, of the full realization of all values…” (ibidem, p. 328).
The relationship between individuals and history is, indeed, the starting point for Francesco Rossolillo’s reflections on the realization that motivates the revolutionary’s choice. Taking Heidegger’s concepts of authentic and inauthentic existence, which the philosopher formulated in an attempt to define the meaning of the life of the individual, Rossolillo, by relating them to the choice of the revolutionary, was able to grasp their limitations: “If the future is the specific temporal dimension of authentic existence, …to regard the future as circumscribed by the death of the individual is to reduce drastically the scope of man’s existence, because only certain projects can be realized within the brief time that is the lifespan of an individual: and these are, typically, projects of the everyday variety…: recreation, pursuit of a career, of wealth, of success…, the projects of inauthentic existence. Thus, the future of authentic existence would seemingly have to be a future of much broader horizons, in which each life’s project acquires meaning through its continuation in the projects of lives that follow.” Therefore, “the life of an individual becomes meaningful only in the context of history” (ibidem, pp. 320-21). “Only those who live their ideals in a historical perspective can pursue a revolutionary design, because the revolutionary cannot regard the future as that short interval of time that separates an individual’s present from his death”. Those who do not view their life “in terms of historical cycles that can take several generations to complete cannot take the radical step of renouncing all prospects of immediate success — a step, associated with the need to turn one’s back on normal politics, that any struggle to change the existing paradigm demands.” (ibidem, p. 327).
In the same way, an authentic revolutionary stance cannot be assumed by anyone who does not submit to the “stern call of reason, which defines the full realization of values as just a governing criterion…, corresponding to the idea of the reason of the final stage of historical development, and the political objective of revolutionary action as just a step, imperfect and partial, along the road towards this full realization of values.” (ibidem, p. 333).
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To focus, in this profile of Francesco Rossolillo, on a single work would certainly be to fail to reflect the breadth of his many contributions: his essays on sovereignty, on federalism, and on the meaning of the European federation, his historical writings, dealing for example with the United States of America and the origins of fascism, and his editorials for this journal in which he analyzed, from a federalist perspective, the events and problems of our times. Equally, we would fail to do justice to his strategic contribution to the struggle for a European federation, through his adopting of stances, his lectures at congresses and, in the past seven years, his European Letter, in which, at three-monthly intervals, he sent Europe’s politicians brief but incisive political analyses and strategic indications, with the aim of keeping high on the agenda the ideas that it is up to federalists to transmit and politicians to assimilate, in readiness, when the time is right, to put them into practice.
The fact nevertheless remains that one topic very close to his heart — whose importance becomes clearer than ever in times of impasse, when there is a need to face up to new strategic situations — was that of the role of the federalist, and thus the role of the revolutionary: this was indeed the topic of an essay on which he was working when he became too weak to continue. We have decided to publish this essay in this issue of the journal — together with a note he had just completed and, as originally planned, a text from thirty years ago — despite being fully aware that he had only just begun his customary rigorous and punctilious revision of the draft.