Year LVIII, 2016, Single Issue, Page 16

 

 

Political Realism, Federalism
and the Crisis of the World Order*

 

SERGIO PISTONE

 

 

The current international system is in an extremely critical state, as shown by the existential challenges the world now faces on different levels: security, the socioeconomic situation and the environment. Federalisation of the European Union is an issue that must be viewed in the light of the need to build a more progressive international order, and pursuit of the objective of a European federation, now an urgent necessity, is a crucial part of this building process.

This paper sets out to recall the theoretical paradigm on the basis of which the European Federalist Movement (MFE) strives to understand the reality of international relations, and thus to determine its stance on, and practical approach towards, this reality. In this regard, a fundamental aspect of the concept of federalism espoused by the MFE is its link with the political theory of realism, especially the realist view of international relations;[1] that said, it should immediately be clarified that the federalist paradigm takes political realism as a starting point, with the aim of overcoming it.

 

The Realist Paradigm.

The realist paradigm rests on the basic assumption that there is a structural difference between the internal relations of states and their international relations, which leads to the existence of a dichotomy between state sovereignty and international anarchy. In the case of the former, insofar as there exists an established sovereign state, i.e. a state founded on the placement of a monopoly on the legitimate use of force in the hands of a central state authority, relations are governed on legal foundations: the state, by imposing law as the tool for regulating internal relations, establishes peace within its own confines and allows conflicts to be resolved without recourse to force, indeed making this structurally impossible. It goes without saying that this does not apply in the case of violent revolutions or civil wars, or in the case of failed states and states that have never actually come into being (tribal societies). In all these situations there is a return to (or persistence of) the condition of war of all against all that underlies and characterises international relations.

It should also be added that, by establishing this monopoly on the legitimate use of force, the modern state also created the conditions that made it possible to civilise the population — a great endeavour accomplished through a lengthy process that is, in part, still ongoing. The key aspects of this process are the moral advancement that comes from accepting (and thus progressively internalising) the relinquishment of the use of individual violence to safeguard personal interests, and the economic and social progress made possible by the certainty of law. It is in this framework that the state underwent a series of deep transformations driven by the emancipating ideologies rooted in the Enlightenment, namely liberalism, democracy and socialism. Moreover, in this regard it should be underlined that the peacemaking function of the state, rooted essentially in its monopoly on the legitimate use of force, has been consolidated in the Western world thanks to its integration with the rule of law and the separation of powers (liberalism), universal suffrage (democracy), and structured social solidarity or the welfare state (socialism).

The above political and social conquests (encapsulated, over the course of history, by the states of the Western world) help to prevent the state from being perceived as a power pursuing the interests of only one section of society instead of the general interest; accordingly, they favour consensus and a reduction of the tendency to resort to violence.

With regard to international relations, on the other hand, the realist paradigm essentially holds that these, unlike relations within states, are regulated on the basis of power relationships between the parties; in this context, international anarchy replaces sovereignty as the key structural element. In concrete terms, international anarchy means the lack of a government, i.e. a supreme authority with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force that is capable of enforcing a valid and effective legal system. Since the international community of states lacks this essential condition for effectively enforcing the rules needed to ensure the peaceable coexistence of states, and the peaceful, i.e. legal, negotiation of international disputes, trials of strength between the parties remain the ultimate method for resolving these, and all international law can do is sanction this approach; it cannot prevent it. War is invariably on the agenda and is always lurking in the background, even in periods of peace — Kant defines these, more properly, as truces between one war and the next, while Raymond Aron, noting that relationships between states always unfold in the shadow of war, essentially says the same. Because the fact is that even in times of peace, states are alert to the ever-present possibility of war and ensure they are prepared for this eventuality. Accordingly, every state (even the smallest) is forced to practice “power politics”. This does not mean, in the strict sense, that it pursues an overly aggressive or violent foreign policy, but rather that, in formulating its foreign policy, it takes into account the permanent possibility of trials of strength, in the form of actual or threatened use of force, and seeks to set up (ready for use in extreme circumstances) a series of essential power resources (arms, alliances, guarantees of protection from major powers, pre-emptive filling of power vacuums), or alternatively to apply cunning and deception. In the framework of international anarchy, the overriding concern, ahead of all other values, is to ensure external security, an objective that, in practice and to an extent that depends on the state’s position in the international system, has authoritarian and centralist implications. As remarked by John Robert Seeley, “the internal freedom of a state is inversely proportional to the pressure that is brought to bear on its borders”.[2]

The idea that there is a structural difference between the internal relations of states and their international relations (and thus the aforementioned dichotomy between state sovereignty and international anarchy), to be understood completely, requires a fundamental clarification. This idea does not equate with the notion that the international situation is simply a form of chaos, dominated by continuous, irrational and unpredictable clashes between states, and lacking any kind of order. In reality, the realist paradigm highlights the presence of other structural elements within the international setting, beyond the more general one of international anarchy — elements that render less chaotic, and therefore relatively more predictable the concrete developments in the international situation.

The first crucial structural element that introduces an, albeit very general, degree of order into the framework of international anarchy is the existence of a hierarchical organisation of the states in which a distinction is drawn between the great powers, i.e., the states that are effectively able to look after their own security and interests (i.e. through their own strength), and the medium-size or small powers that, instead, must seek either protection from one of the great powers, or unanimous recognition by the latter of their neutrality. What this means, of course, is that the fundamental decisions determining the evolution of the international situation are taken by the great powers, in other words by a very small number of sovereign states. These states are, in effect, governing the world, albeit on the basis, clearly, of a compromise between their respective national interests — interests that may be more or less farsighted and more or less acceptable to, or shared by, their allies. In the old European system of states, the major powers normally numbered five or six (a multipolar system), whereas the world system that emerged after the two World Wars was dominated, until the end of the East-West conflict, by the American and Soviet superpowers (a bipolar system). Today, as a result of the decline of US power and the rise — still problematical — of the BRICS countries, the situation is one of transition towards an as yet ill-defined form of multipolarism.

Another key structural element of international anarchy is the balance mechanism, in other words, a situation that, while unable to prevent the emergence of power relations and power conflicts, has had the effect of limiting these, and above all has allowed the preservation of the independence of the major powers, and thus of a pluralistic system of sovereign states. This, among other things, has made it possible to guarantee medium-size and small powers a measure of autonomy too. For the sake of completeness, these remarks on the balance of powers should be accompanied by reference to the epoch-making changes brought about by the development of weapons of mass destruction (in particular atomic and nuclear arms); this led to the emergence and establishment of the system of deterrence also known as the balance of terror, in short, a situation in which a general conflict between the major powers is inconceivable (as it amounts to global self-destruction). This radically new situation did not bring an end to power relations between states, to small-scale conflicts (sometimes resulting from the use of intermediaries by the larger powers), or to localised (or civil) wars, but it did lead, in security policies, to a shift of emphasis away from defence and towards arms control and the prevention of war.

Remaining on the subject of the factors limiting violent manifestations of international anarchy, it should also be noted that states with liberal-democratic orders, which have a true division and consistent decentralisation of powers, find it more difficult than states with authoritarian or totalitarian regimes to put aggressive foreign policies into practice. This is because, in the former, the balance between the various powers of the state hinders rapid decision-making and intervention at international level. However, contrary to the thinking of democratic internationalism,[3] this certainly does not mean that the affirmation of democracy within states is automatically linked to the overcoming of power relations between them.

Finally, it must be underlined that, according to the realist paradigm, the hierarchy of states and the balance that has been established among the powers are the objective conditions that induced countries to acknowledge one another, formally too, as sovereign states and allowed the affirmation and gradual extension of international law, and its acquisition of a measure of effectiveness in spite of the fact that it does not emanate from a sovereign power. Given the objective impossibility of eliminating the sovereignty of the other states, the most prominent actors within the international system had to acknowledge the need to find a way of living side by side with them. While nevertheless preserving power politics and war as extreme measures, they had to find a way of regulating their reciprocal relations, and thus created a set of sui generis rules — sui generis in the sense that they legitimate the normal use of force and are subordinate to the power relations and hierarchical relations between the states. This is the setting in which there emerged the international bodies (the UN is the prime example) that, after the Second World War and as an effect of the increasing destructiveness of war and the growing interdependence of all the world’s states, both socioeconomic and environmental (with the related global risks), developed at a rate that, in comparison with previous eras, was quite unprecedented. This phenomenon was also accompanied by the gradual emergence of numerous international NGOs.

 

The Federalist Paradigm.

Federalist theory[4] overlaps considerably with realist theory in terms of its understanding of reality. The key aspect of the convergence between the two is the view of statehood as an irreplaceable basis for the pursuit of social peace and progress and, therefore, of the absence of statehood at international level as the structural cause of international anarchy and the power relations that dominate international relations. At the same time, federalist theory differs clearly from the realist model in terms of the value judgement applied in the interpretation of reality. The main value championed by realists is security, and thus the power of one’s own state, because they see the overcoming of the condition of international anarchy as inconceivable. Essentially, they tend to regard the plurality of sovereign states not as a phase in the evolution of history, but as an insuperable point of arrival. This reflects an ideological prejudice of a nationalistic kind that leads the plurality of states (and, by extension, conflicts between states), to be viewed as an irreplaceable element of progress. Federalists, on the other hand, are guided by the value of peace, and thus by the conviction that the nation-state is a stage in the historical evolution of the state, and therefore that the creation of a world federal state, although the time is not yet ripe for this, is a realistic prospect. Furthermore, according to federalists, the present growing economic interdependence between states, linked to the advanced industrial revolution, and to the scientific and technological revolution, has opened up a historical phase in which commitment to the progress of mankind is irrevocably bound up with the endeavour to overcome violence in international relations. Underpinning this orientation are the enlightening reflections on peace developed by Kant, which I briefly outline here.[5]

First of all, Kant, starting from a realistic view of international relations, and thus from the dichotomy between state sovereignty and international anarchy, clarified beyond doubt that peace corresponds to an organisation of power that overcomes international anarchy, because it transforms power relations among states into true juridical relations, and thus, through the extension of statehood on a universal scale (by means of the federal system), renders war structurally impossible. Second, Kant established the existence of an organic link between the overcoming of international anarchy and the full implementation, within states, of the liberal-democratic regime (which must necessarily be complemented by the institutionalisation of social solidarity, even though Kant does not specify this). On the one hand, the existence of power relations between states, which makes external security the overriding concern, is an obstacle to the full affirmation of the liberal-democratic system; on the other, progress (albeit impeded by international anarchy) in a liberal-democratic direction introduces structural pressure pushing towards the elimination of war, the negative impact of which is, of course, felt mainly by citizens.

These ideas, let us remember, form part of a broader reflection of Kant’s in which peace is seen as the necessary condition for the full development of man’s moral and rational capacities. For as long as there exists an international system based on war, in other words, an objective need for all individuals to adapt their conduct to a social structure modelled on the authoritarian and bellicose requirements of the state, and their consciences to the ethics of combat that this structure produces, it will result in a limited and unilateral development of their creative faculties and hinder their moral progress. But once a power structure emerges that has the capacity to channel all social behaviours within the confines of law, it will no longer be possible to use war or the permanent threat of war to legitimise the violence of men towards men. In this situation, the rational nature of men will be allowed full expression and they will be able to mould themselves entirely according to the principle of autonomy of the will. In other words, the ground will be laid for a radical transformation of relations between the individual and society, and the way opened up for the reaching of a condition in which it will, in all social relations, be possible always to treat men as ends, and never as means.

It must be pointed out that the project for perpetual peace developed by Kant at the end of the eighteenth century, being based on a clear awareness that it will take humanity a very long time to mature and realise it, cannot be considered a simple expression of utopian ideas. That said, it is a process that nevertheless has a very good chance of taking place. First of all, there is the historical precedent of the overcoming of anarchy within states through the creation of a state authority with the capacity to enforce respect for the law internally. This example of real historical progress makes it impossible to exclude in principle — here we see that Kant manages to overcome the anthropological pessimism of Hobbes — the possibility of further progress that will ultimately result in the overcoming of international anarchy. Second, this progress will be favoured —here we see Kant’s exceptional ability to foresee the great challenges that, in the twentieth century, were destined to underlie the beginnings of supranational integration — by the combined impetus of two powerful historical forces. One is the growth of trade, which, being destined to make humanity increasingly interdependent and thus to increase the likelihood of conflict, renders ever more pressing the need to develop instruments for the peaceful resolution of conflicts (so as not to undermine the benefits deriving from interdependence), in other words, to bring about an extension of statehood. The other force, generated by scientific and technical progress, is the increasing destructiveness of war, which is making it increasingly urgent to overcome, through concrete measures, the very system of war, so that mankind’s destiny is not one of collective self-destruction.[6]

Having established that federalists — on the basis of the teachings of Kant — see peace as the supreme value and, compared with realists, therefore apply a different value judgement in their interpretation of reality, it should also be underlined that the federalists’ overcoming of the realist model is linked to the historical relevance of the struggle for peace. To grasp this, it is necessary to have a full understanding of the consequences — on the evolution of states and on inter-state relations — of the momentous changes brought about by the advanced industrial revolution, which evolved into the technical and scientific revolution. Realists take into account a series of phenomena of crucial importance: the growing economic interdependence between states (which has presented us with the phenomenon of globalisation), the advent of weapons of mass destruction, environmental interdependence and the global environmental crisis. But since their guiding values lead them to regard the plurality of the sovereign states as insurmountable, they are unable to see that these developments have introduced a new factor, with extremely far-reaching implications, into the system of international relations, namely the historical crisis of the system of sovereign states (also named the Westphalian system, after the peace agreement that ended the Thirty Years War in 1648 and constituted a key moment in the formal establishment of the principle of absolute state sovereignty); this crisis is a situation that makes commitment to the overcoming of international anarchy not only ethically essential but also a political necessity.

This aspect of the federalist paradigm is based on a reworking, by Mario Albertini, of the fundamental precepts of the historical materialism theory,[7] from which federalists have assimilated the idea that the evolution of the mode of production (i.e. the process through which men continually transform the quality of their lives through technological innovation and the creation of new ways of organising the division of labour, and consequently transform society and cultural processes, too) influences the potential development of the state, in an institutional and also a territorial sense. On this basis they were able to see that, just as the passage from the agricultural to the industrial mode of production (which was given a powerful boost by the development of trade between the late Middle Ages and the first two centuries of the Modern Age) had made it possible for the modern sovereign state to become established and, therefore, had created the conditions for possible transformations, within it, towards liberalism, democracy and the welfare state, so the advance of the Industrial Revolution and the transition to the technical-scientific revolution altered the economic and social basis of the states, making the question of their dimensions one of central importance. Although this process first manifested itself in Europe, it has now extended worldwide. But in a global society, sovereign states, even large ones like the USA, have far less capacity to control reality than did the powers of the past.

Having recalled all this, an examination of these issues can be broken down into three crucial frames of reference.

The first concerns the extent of the economic interdependence that gradually evolved with the advance of the Industrial Revolution and Post-Industrial Revolution. This brought to light the unavoidable need to create states of continental dimensions in order to avert social and economic decline and, therefore, to prevent democratic progress from drawing to a halt. But it also began a process destined, in the long term, to render even continental-size states obsolete and consequently to place on the agenda, in order not to impede progress, the political unification of the whole of mankind. A grasp of the political implications of economic interdependence is the indispensable key to understanding the fundamental developments of the XX century. Let us summarise these: first of all, the decline of the European nation-states led to attempts to build, through a hegemonic imperial design, a European state of continental dimensions and, in connection with these attempts, to a spread of authoritarian and totalitarian tendencies (accompanied by heinous crimes); after this, the dwindling power of the European nation-states, which were absorbed into the bipolar (USA-URSS) world order, opened up the way for the dismantling of the colonial empires and, above all, for the process of European unification on a peaceful and democratic basis; this radically altered the situation in Europe, in the sense that it restored momentum to socioeconomic development, democratic progress and peacemaking endeavours, and also stimulated, in other parts of the world, similar although much less deep-rooted processes (regional integrations); this phase was followed by the start of the formation, a process that accelerated sharply after the end of the Cold War, of an increasingly integrated global economic system (globalisation), dominated — albeit increasingly less so — by the USA. This system, of course, has produced strong economic growth but also recurrent, and increasingly severe, economic-financial crises accompanied by the persistence of serious social and regional imbalances (giving rise to destructive instability in entire regions and migrations of “biblical” proportions). At this point, it should be remarked that the development of global economic interdependence prompted the formation of international economic organisations(the IMF, World Bank, GATT-WTO, OECD, ILO, FAO, G7, G8 and G20) which, while they have not produced a level of integration comparable to that seen in Europe, do underline the need to create a collaborative global order, and thus make it possible to see world unification as a real prospect, however distant, and no longer just as a utopian idea.

In the second frame of reference, meanwhile, the emergence of challenges not only to progress but also to the very survival of mankind (challenges deriving from the discovery of weapons of mass destruction and the upsetting of the world’s natural environment) are regarded as a factor in the historical crisis of the system of sovereign states. While the destructiveness of modern warfare, combined with the phenomenon of economic decline, presented the European states with the stark choice — “unite or perish”[8] — that is at the very root of the process of European integration, the development of weapons of mass destruction marked the start of the extension of this choice to global level, and thus put the need to overcome war as an instrument for resolving conflicts among states onto the historical agenda, since a general war implying the large-scale employment of weapons of mass destruction would mean not the continuation of politics through other means, but rather, as the consequence of a collective suicide, the end of politics altogether. And here it should be underlined that it is entirely unrealistic to regard the inconceivableness of a general war between the major powers as permanent protection against the risk of a nuclear holocaust. Not only is there no absolute guarantee that deterrence cannot fail, consideration must also be given to the fact that the inevitable proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will, in a setting characterised by chronic instability of the underdeveloped world, see these weapons eventually finding their way into the hands of states, led by extremist and fanatical ruling classes, that have no democratic mechanisms, or even into the hands of terrorist groups that do not have a territory that deterrence can hold to ransom. In reality, the value of deterrence and security policies aimed at arms control and reduction can only be temporary. In other words, all they can do is provide the setting within which, to be truly realist, the extremely difficult and long-term plan to eliminate structurally the possibility of wars — a plan to which there exist no valid alternatives — must be pursued through the building of a global democratic state. The same argument applies to the danger of an environmental holocaust. International cooperation alone cannot be regarded as anything other than a temporary remedy, a remedy whose coherent development is possible only within the context of the gradual construction of a global state.

The third frame of reference, finally, is related specifically to the objective factors that, within the historical context we have described (characterised by economic interdependence and by existential threats), allowed the federalist commitment to peace to become politically relevant. Basically, the historical-structural crisis of the system of sovereign states, by triggering a crisis of legitimacy at all institutional levels, is responsible for a widespread aspiration to pursue a level of cooperation that extends beyond the boundaries of the state — the extraordinary proliferation of supranational NGOs is a main manifestation of this — and also the overcoming of absolute sovereignty that such cooperation demands; this crisis of legitimacy is also responsible for the growth of populism, which is a direct effect of the absence of effective supranational alternatives to the, now powerless, existing institutions, a situation that has created the kind of a vacuum that populism naturally tends to fill. In this setting, the federalists have identified two strategies. The first is to pursue regional integrations, starting with that of Europe, where the crisis of the nation-states is particularly advanced, as this can serve as a test bed able to encourage the development of unification processes in the world’s other areas; the pursuit of regional integrations can also be seen as a means of promoting the stabilisation and socioeconomic advancement and political-democratic progress of underdeveloped regions. It is, in fact, clear that the fundamental pillars of a functional future world federation must be regional integrations and states that already have continental or subcontinental dimensions, since it clearly cannot be made up of hundreds of states and statelets. The other federalist strategy is, at the same time, to continue strengthening the global international order, along federal lines, so as to be able to start responding effectively to the challenges facing the world.[9] A crucial aspect of the thinking behind the federalist commitment to peace is the conviction that federal completion of the process of European unification carries enormous strategic value, serving both as a model and a driving force for similar processes elsewhere in the world.

* * *

While acknowledging that the federalist commitment to peace has become politically relevant, it must also be acknowledged that it comes up against major obstacles. The most important of these is the fact that while, on the one hand, the historical crisis of the system of sovereign states forces national governments to pursue policies of supranational and, in the more advanced cases, supranational cooperation, on the other, these governments display a structural resistance to the placement of limitations on their sovereignty. This attitude is rooted in the rule, first clarified by Machiavelli, that those who possess power tend to hold on to it, and this consideration underlines the need to ensure that the federalist struggle for peace is based on the existence of autonomous movements that are independent of national governments and parties.[10] A further obstacle is the opposition mounted by the populist-nationalist movements that have now become established in democratic countries where the structural crisis of democratic politics, which is due ultimately to the fact that states are no longer adequate to deal with the fundamental problems (a supranational order), is exacerbated by the significant delay in the process of bringing into being an effective and democratic form of statehood at supranational level.[11] It must also be said that the painful slowness of this process is also linked to the objective difficulty of building a new form of post-national statehood that, having no historical precedent, must be guided by an innovative interpretation of federalism that goes far beyond the concept underlying the federations that currently exist in the world.

 

The Crisis of the World Order.

The federalist paradigm, whose essential aspects I have herein sought to clarify (underlining in particular its elements of convergence with and overcoming of the realist model), shows us the way forward in order to tackle, effectively, the current crisis of the world order. It must first be established what this crisis is: basically, it is the existence of a set of three major emergencies, or challenges, whose combined effects represent an existential threat to humanity.

The first is that of security, which we see in the resumption (after the slackening of pace that followed the end of the Cold War) of the arms race, especially (but not only) between the major powers, which has led to a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that it is proving difficult to reverse in any substantial way; in the spread of wars (mostly civil wars but also international conflicts) related to the backwardness and chronic instability of entire regions (particularly the Middle East and Africa) and the phenomenon of failed states; and in international terrorism, of which the so-called Islamic State is a key driving force.

There is a strong link between this situation of widespread and extremely dangerous unrest and the end of the bipolar system, which was followed by the transition towards the present multipolar system in which there are no powers able to exert a stabilising leadership role. The bipolar system ensured relative stability as it was based on the hegemony of the two superpowers over much of the rest of the world, which in turn was strongly rooted in the concept of a universal conflict between the ideologies of democracy and communism. But the fall of these “ideological empires” had the effect of unleashing the ethnic, religious and tribal unrest that the bipolar world order had previously managed to keep in check; it also unleashed the force of international terrorism — a very real threat to global security. The end of the bipolar system (and of the global ideological conflict it represented) can also be linked, objectively, to the momentous changes brought by the advancement of economic interdependence, and also to the cost of arms. The disintegration of the Soviet bloc was clearly due not only to the economic burden of the arms race, but also to the growth of economic interdependence that, together with the increasing spread of information, rendered the economic backwardness deriving from the bloc’s autarkic isolation increasingly unsustainable. What is more, even the USA, the other pillar in the bipolar system, following a period in which it held firm as the only superpower in an apparently unipolar world order, has now seen a sharp decline in its power on the global stage, as shown by the current chaos in the regions lying on Europe’s eastern and southern borders, for example.

In addition to these security issues, there is the social and economic challenge constituted, in particular, by the (now chronic) global economic and financial crisis that has generated growing tensions the world over. In addition, the gaps separating different regions of the world are widening and this — together with situations of chronic instability and environmental imbalances — is generating massive migratory flows that are seriously jeopardising the European integration process. A third aspect of the social and economic challenge facing the world is the monetary chaos that, with the spread of competitive devaluations, is having a backward effect on the process of global market integration. The fact that that globalisation is an ungoverned phenomenon is a key factor in this regard. Indeed, we have witnessed the creation of a highly integrated world economy that, despite having allowed great progress — billions of people, in China and India in particular, are now moving closer to Western-type standards of living —, is flawed by serious contradictions: in short, while the economy and society as a whole are both assuming a supranational character and global dimensions, political institutions remain predominantly national in size and scope; this can be attributed to the failure to complete European unification and the considerable weakness of the global economic organisations.

The third emergency, which is also the most serious of the three, is the environmental problem of global warming, a phenomenon that, in the absence of rapid and radical choices designed to promote an environmentally sustainable mode of production and way of living, is destined to have catastrophic consequences for mankind. In this regard, the key problem, once again, is that of ungoverned interdependence.

Having said all this, I feel it must be acknowledged that there is only one adequate response to the crisis of the international order that is manifested through this set of existential challenges: to build a new international order that represents a significant forward step in the direction of world unification — an extremely arduous project, certainly, but at the same time one that the unprecedented gravity of the threats facing mankind now makes it possible to pursue. Substantially,  and in very brief and general terms, it is a question of setting out — in the field of security in the strict sense (which is nevertheless closely linked to the fields of socioeconomic and environmental security), — to build a systemic agreement between the main political players of continental or subcontinental dimensions. In practice, this means moving from the current situation of confrontational multipolarism, which has followed the end of the bipolar order and the decline of American hegemony, to a structured multipolar system of cooperation, which should eventually be extended to all the global players. The fundamental basis and starting point for this evolution should be the realisation of an extension of the “Common European Home” concept, created by Gorbachev in the mid-1980s,[12] in other words, an international organisation for promoting cooperation and gradual integration between not only Europe and Russia (Gorbachev’s model) but America, too — an organisationof which OSCE is but an embryonic prefiguration. The broader institutional framework in which to set this cooperative multipolarism should be that of a significantly strengthened UN, which would thus need to be democratically reformed and restructured on a regional basis. Its fundamental governing body should be a Security Council whose members, which would gradually take decisions by majority, would no longer be the main Allied countries that emerged victorious at the end of World War II (given the power of veto, moreover), but rather regional groupings of states that, as these gradually form and become established, would sit alongside the existing global players (i.e. those that, by dint of their size, already constitute macro-regions). This would allow all states, through their regional unions, to take part in the government of the world. The Security Council should be flanked by a universal parliamentary assembly — this would initially have to be made up of representatives of the parliaments of the regional unions —, thereby allowing all peoples to have a say in the government of the world.

Only through this extremely difficult, but absolutely necessary, evolution will it be possible to seriously tackle the aforementioned emergencies so as to be able to: i) resume the arms control and disarmament policy that had been introduced in the final phase of the Cold War (a policy that must include the gradual elimination of weapons of mass destruction, which must be brought under the control of a strengthened and more democratic UN, reformed in the manner outlined above); ii) launch a great plan to stabilise and bring peace to the Middle East and Africa (a plan that, by seeking to address the problem of failed states, resolve ethnic and religious conflicts, and promote regional integration, must endeavour to eliminate the root causes of underdevelopment, endemic wars and terrorism,[13] and thus go beyond efforts to destroy the so-called Islamic State); iii) wage an effective war on international terrorism (which means ensuring systemic and in-depth cooperation, both in the military sphere and, in particular, in the areas of policing and intelligence); and iv) bring about the gradual, but effective, creation of an international police force under the authority of the United Nations.

With regard to the social and economic challenge discussed above, the cooperative multipolarism solution would allow a crucial strengthening of the global economic organisationsand thus allow them to govern the globalisation phenomenon. In this setting it would be possible to implement: i) a new Bretton Woods agreement to launch a process of global monetary unification, starting with the transformation of the special drawing rights system into a global system designed to limit exchange rate fluctuations (along the lines of the European monetary system that paved the way for the European monetary union) and end the hegemony of the dollar;[14] ii) a global economic integration progress in which removal of obstacles to the free movement of production factors (negative integration) is combined with instruments of positive integration, i.e. instruments designed to guide the world economy (in the grip of continuous and increasingly severe crises) and, in particular, to seriously address the regional disparities in development that, being a primary cause of political and social instability in vast regions of the world, are also responsible for the current out-of-control migratory flows and for international terrorism; iii) the creation of a UN economic security council to coordinate and strengthen capacity to act of the global economic organisations.

As far as the environmental emergency is concerned, the way ahead would be to establish a World Environment Agency or Organisation under the auspices of the UN, to which the States Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change would be subordinate. This Agency or Organisation should have real powers and financial autonomy, be run by an independent authority (in the manner of the ECSC), and be required to create a global plan for balanced reduction of atmospheric emissions of CO2, thereafter regularly reviewing and adapting the objectives of the same to the evolving situation. Its functions should include the provision of financial help to the most disadvantaged countries, the implementation of comprehensive and coordinated actions to counter global environmental emergencies, the development of new technologies in the energy sector, and the transfer of these technologies to countries in the process of industrialisation. Another possibility is the application of a carbon tax in the main polluting countries, such as China, India, the USA, the EU, Japan and Russia, as a means of speeding up their transition from fossil energy to renewable energy sources and of ensuring the direct funding, with a portion of the revenues from this tax, of the aforementioned World Environment Agency or Organisation.[15]

However, it must be underlined that if the new global framework is, indeed, to develop in the positive direction outlined above, then the creation of a European federation is absolutely indispensable, and must happen soon. It must also be recalled that the current impasse reached by the process of European integration (which raises the prospect of a catastrophic disintegration process) is having the effect of stalling other processes of regional integration that had been stimulated by European unification, drawing inspiration and real energy from its example. Conversely, a federal outcome to the process of European integration (which is now not only urgently needed, but also a realistic prospect, given that it offers a means of avoiding a fatal reversal of the unification process) would give fresh impetus to other regional integrations that are equally crucial bricks in the building of world peace. Furthermore, as we have said, the advance of the populist-nationalist movements that oppose policies geared at sharing state sovereignty stems mainly from the crisis of the sovereign states and the failure to develop any effective and democratic alternative form of statehood at supranational level. In this setting, Europe is ideally placed to play a crucial role; after all, Europe is where integration, even though the process is still midstream, has advanced to a level that renders the contrast between the two alternative directions particularly stark. If the populist-nationalist movements in Europe were to be defeated through the continent’s full federalisation, this would automatically set back the widespread tendencies of this kind in the rest of the world. In addition, a Europe finally capable of acting on the international stage would, in its role as a global player, clearly make a decisive contribution to the aforementioned plan to stabilise and bring peace to the Middle East and Africa — a Marshall Plan-type programmenecessitating huge and long-range efforts in terms of aid in the areas of security and the economy and the construction of modern state institutions. In the same way, efforts to move towards the extended version of the Common European Home, mentioned earlier, may bear fruit only in the presence of a Europe that, having succeeded in coming out from under the protective wing of the USA, has the capacity to significantly influence the conduct of the USA and the Russian Federation, as well as that of the other global players.[16]

Going beyond these specific remarks, it must also be underlined that it is the structural vocation of Europe (ideally placed to be the backbone of a multipolar system of cooperation) to work towards a more peaceful, more just and more environmentally sustainable world. In essence, Europe has an ingrained tendency to act as a “civil power”, a power that pursues the overcoming of power politics. Precisely because European unification was born from the catastrophe of the two World Wars, and was the first significant response to the historical crisis of the Westphalian system, the EU is genetically programmed to strive to export the positive elements of its own experience, which we might refer to as the European way of life (liberal democracy, the welfare state, human rights, environmental awareness, low military spending), as well as the unification process itself. Indeed, in setting out (in Treaties and strategic doctrine) its planned international role, the EU speaks not only of European interests and security, but also of world peace, to be built through the instruments of solidarity, the rule of law, the liberal-democratic system, the globalisation of human rights, and regional integrations — in short, of multilateralism as opposed to unilateralism. This formal orientation is concretely reflected in the leadership role that, despite Europe’s unification still being incomplete, is played by the EU in the areas of development and food aid, peace missions and the pursuit of human rights, as well as its key involvement in initiatives such as the International Criminal Court and agreements designed to combat global warming.

Obviously, to manifest this structural vocation effectively, Europe needs to be more than just an economic power; it also needs to become, through the adoption of a single foreign, security and defence policy, a fully-fledged global player. As a paradigmatic illustration of its potential we may consider the fact that giving the EU a single seat on the UN Security Council would effectively trigger the process of regionalisation of the UN that represents the strategic path towards the strengthening and democratisation of this organisation.[17]



* This paper is a reworking of the address given at the meeting of the MFE’s Ufficio del dibattito which took place in in Genoa on 5-6 March 2016.

[1] Political realism is linked to the tradition of thought founded on the raison d’état concept, which was born with Machiavelli and Hobbes, before undergoing a great development in German culture of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth (especially, Hegel, Ranke, Treitschke, Hintze, Meinecke, Weber, Ritter); the most recent expression of this tradition of thought is the realist current that runs through the sphere of international relations (especially, Niebuhr, Carr, Morghentau, Kennan, Osgood, Kissinger, Kaplan, Aron, Hoffman, Waltz, Gilpin, Buzan), and it is this that is referred to herein. I refer readers to J.J. Roche, Le relazioni internazionali, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2000 and M. Albertini and S. Pistone, Il federalismo, la ragion di stato e la pace, I Quaderni di Ventotene, 2001, n. 4.

[2] Cf. J.R. Seeley, Introduction to Political Science, London, MacMillan, 1902. See also L.V. Majocchi, John Robert Seeley, The Federalist, 31, n. 2 (1989). It is to be recalled that in the German realist current of the XIX and first half of the XX century (doctrine of the power-state), which examined in depth the distinction between island states (which are more liberal as they are more secure) and continental states (more authoritarian on account of the need to defend their less secure land borders) already made by Alexander Hamilton in the eighth essay of The Federalist Papers, there prevailed a tendency to justify the authoritarianism that emerged in the Prussian-German setting. Cf. S. Pistone, F. Meinecke e la crisi dello stato nazionale tedesco, Turin, Giappichelli, 1969.

[3] For a good framing of this current from a realist point of view, see, A. Panebianco, Guerrieri democratici.Le democrazie e la politica di potenza, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1997. In general, for more on the internationalism espoused by the liberal, democratic and socialist ideologies — all of which regard peace as deriving automatically from the affirmation of their principles within the state — see L. Levi, Internazionalismo, in Enciclopedia delle Scienze Sociali, Rome, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1996.

[4] I here refer readers to the fundamental writings of M. Albertini and especially to Il federalismo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1993 and Nazionalismo e federalismo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999. I also wish to recall: the writings of F. Rossolillo collected in Senso della storia e azione politica, edited by G. Vigo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009; S. Pistone, Ludwig Dehio, Naples, Guida, 1997 and Id., L’unificazione europea e la pace nel mondo, in L’Unione Europea e le sfide del XXI secolo, edited by U. Morelli, Turin, Celid, 2000; L. Levi, Crisi dello Stato e governo del mondo, Turin, Giappichelli, 2000 and Id., La crisi del paradigma realistico e il paradigma federalistico, Il Ponte, 63 (2012), n. 2-3; R. Castaldi, Federalism and material interdependence, Milan, Giuffré, 2008, and Id. (editor), Immannuel Kant and Alexander Hamilton, the Founders of Federalism, Brussels, Peter Lang, 2013.

[5] Cf. I. Kant, La pace, la ragione e la storia, edited by M. Albertini, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1985.

[6] In this regard, it is important to underline that Kant, precisely because he was not a naive pacifist, was able to appreciate that war is also a decisive factor of historical progress, in that it prompts rulers, in order to boost support for the power policy pursued by the state, to improve the conditions in which their subjects live. At the same time, he predicted that the continuous refinement of arms would ultimately result in the prevalence of the purely destructive aspects of wars, and render the overcoming of the same a pressing need.

[7] See L. Trumellini, Mario Albertini’s Reflections on a Critical Reworking of Historical Materialism, The Federalist, 50, n. 1 (2008) and Id., Mario Albertini’s Reflections on Kant’s Philosophy of History and its Integration with Historical Materialism, The Federalist, 51, n. 2 (2009).

[8] “Unite or perish” was the choice on which French foreign minister Aristide Briand based his 1929 proposal for European unity. Cf. S. Minardi, Origini e vicende del progetto di Unione europea di Briand, Caltanissetta, Salvatore Sciascia, 1994.

[9] For more on the structure of the world state based on federalism at all levels and on the principle of subsidiarity, see the excellent text by O. Hoeffe,Democracy in an Age of Globalisation, Cahm, Springer, 2007.

[10] See S. Pistone, Movimento Federalista Europeo: storia e prospettive di una strategia di azione politica, Il Ponte, 68, n. 2-3 (2012).

[11]See A. Martinelli, Mal di nazione. Contro la deriva populista, Milan, Università Bocconi Editore, 2013.

[12] Cf. S. Pistone, Considerazioni orientative sul tema della Casa comune europea, in Governo europeo, costituzione europea, federazione europea, Atti del XXIV Congresso nazionale del Movimento federalista europeo (Catania 27-29 marzo 2009), Pavia, 2009.

[13] Cf. L. Levi, Una Helsinki 2 nel Mediterraneo, Policy Paper n. 12, Centro Studi sul Federalismo, 2015 e S. Pistone, L’Europa e la sfida dello stato islamico, in Una Unione federale a partire dall’eurozona, Atti del XXVII Congresso nazionale del MFE (Ancona 20-22 marzo 2015), Pavia, 2015.

[14] Cf.: R. Triffin, Dollaro, Euro e moneta mondiale, introduction by A. Iozzo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1998; Id., The International Monetary Scene Today and Tomorrow, The International Spectator, n. 4 (2015); A. Iozzo, Rejoinder, 45 Years Later, to “The International Monetary Scene Today and Tomorrow”, ibidem; A. Mosconi, The United States and Europe in a Multipolar World, The Federalist Debate, 25, n. 2 (2012).

[15] Cf. R. Palea, Un Accordo “storico” sul clima a Parigi: ma saprà l’umanità salvarsi in tempo?, Policy Paper n. 14, Centro Studi sul Federalismo, 2016.

[16] Cf. A. Sabatino, Ucraina: l’assenza di una politica europea, Il Federalista, 56, n. 1-2 (2014) and S. Pistone, L’Unione politica e le sfide della sicurezza, Paradoxa, 8, n. 3 (2015). As regards Russia, the key problem is to help overcome its overwhelming dependence on exports of fuel and bring about real progress in terms of its integration with the economies of Europe and of the Western world generally. The progress (both socioeconomic and political-democratic) that would ensue would make it possible to eradicate the neoimperial tendencies in Russia that are clearly linked to economic and social backwardness and the country’s authoritarian regime. The tool for achieving this is the Common European Home, which that a Europe truly capable of acting would effectively be able to pursue.

[17] Cf. S. Pistone, The European Union As Global Player, in U. Morelli (Ed.) A Constitution For The European Union. Sovereignty, Representation, Competencies, Constituent Process, Milan, Giuffrè, 2005; R. Castaldi, La scelta per la civiltà europea moderna: unirsi o perire, Paradoxa, 8, n. 3 (2015).

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