Year LIX, 2017, Single Issue, Page 55

 

 

Mario Albertini, a Militant Life*

 

GIOVANNI VIGO

 

 

I

In 1984 a group of young federalists decided to create, as a platform for discussion, a periodical that would contain articles on the major developments in European and world politics, on the strategy of the struggle for Europe and, more generally, on the relevance of federalism. Its promoters intended it to serve as a permanent forum for dialogue among militants (both young and not so young) actively engaged in all the sections of the European Federalist Movement (Movimento federalista europeo, MFE). Thus, Il Dibattito Federalista was founded. Mario Albertini suggested printing, on the cover, a brief phrase that was, for him, a constant point of reference in his political endeavour: “The militant is one who makes a personal issue of the contradictions between facts and values”.[1]

Anyone finding themselves drawn to the MFE, and deciding to commit to the struggle for Europe, had to know that the road before them was a difficult one, littered with obstacles, and that it offered no reward for their work other than the satisfaction of having done their duty. This is the spirit in which Albertini had embarked on his federalist militancy in 1952, and it is in these terms that he appealed to the young to do the same, recalling, in the very first issue of Il Dibattito, that the experience of the MFE had paved the way for “a new way of doing politics” that depended on the “high moral and cultural level” of its militants.[2]

Albertini’s decision was the result of a journey that had begun many years earlier. Like many young people of his generation — Albertini was born in 1919 —, he had endured difficult times, first under the Fascist dictatorship, and then in the vain search for the path that might lead to Italy’s democratic regeneration. As a result of these experiences, he had come to two important conclusions. First of all, during the war, he came to realise that victory for Italy would mean the triumph of Fascism and, as he later wrote, being anti-Fascist, he “wished for Italy’s defeat, and this was a terrible sentiment for a young man to have”.[3] But, for him, “this hatred of Italy [also] meant freedom from the bonds that tie a person to a country only by virtue of being born there”.[4]

Albertini’s second conclusion, or realisation, this time reached in the post-war period, was that the national framework was too limited to allow democracy to be restored in Italy through a renewal of the country’s national parties.[5] The next step in his evolution (i.e. the step from rejecting the nation-state as an exclusive political community to choosing Europe) was a small but difficult one.

Albertini had joined the European Federalist Movement back in 1945, but he regarded it more as a cultural than a political organisaton.[6] His pro-European leanings allowed him to clearly perceive Italy’s limitations but he was not yet able to see Europe as a viable political alternative. In this regard, his respectful disagreement with Benedetto Croce, who had criticised Italy’s signing of the post-war peace treaty, is significant. “The ideal of Italy and its national dignity”, he wrote in 1947, “is dead; we view it as respectable in an old man who has shared that ideal during his lifetime; however, it is a dead letter, entirely devoid of historic relevance, when recalled now, to fight today’s battle.”[7] As these words show, Europe was beginning to appear in the background for Albertini, but it was yet to become his life choice.

It took a further period of deep introspection, and above all first-hand experience of a few major disappointments in national politics,[8] before Albertini reached the point at which he was able to make this choice. Finally, in 1953, the MFE suddenly struck him as being “the only political organisation of strategic significance”. Having finally reached this conclusion, Albertini lost no further time. He wrote to Spinelli, went to visit him, and thus embarked on a career as a federalist militant in the MFE.[9]

That same year, the movement was in a frenzy over the European Defence Community (EDC). It had hundreds of chapters and over fifty thousand members that it could field in support of the EDC and its inevitable corollary, political community. Success appeared to be within reach, but in early 1954 the first complications started to emerge, and on 30 August, the French national assembly, through its motion préalable, buried the Treaty, and thereby put an end to all hopes of giving rise, within the space of a few years, to a European federation. The collapse of the EDC project was more than just a defeat for those pursuing European unification; it also marked a profound change in the climate that had allowed the federalists to come so close to success.

Another chapter in Europe’s history had ended, and if the federalists wanted to pursue their battle, they needed to change strategy. In an article that appeared in Europa federata in October 1954, Spinelli set out the conclusions he had reached after the fall of the EDC: “We do not know if federal European unity will ever materialise, but we know for sure that it will never materialise unless we admit that the national political horizon is ruinous. Favourable conditions may develop in six months, perhaps a year, or ten years: it is not up to us to decide. But if we are to make the most of those conditions and at last break the spell of national sovereignty, then there have to be among us those who will tirelessly denounce this evil, and reveal the deceitfulness of each and every political party in accepting the national arena as the normal arena for their activities, and making promises that they cannot keep if they remain in this arena.”[10] Such a role could only be played by a revolutionary movement which would persevere despite momentary defeats, and remain on the battlefield, ready to resume the fight where it had left off. Thus began what in the federalist tradition is known as the “new path”.

What needed leveraging, Spinelli explained, was no longer Europe’s national governments, which, by their actions if not their words, had rejected federalism, but rather Europe’s citizens. Once mobilised, people would pressure their governments into giving up sovereignty in areas in which they were no longer able to exercise it effectively. These considerations did not challenge the political motives and ideals that had informed Spinelli’s choice in 1943, but they did force the movement to reconsider its role and its relationship with power. At the time of the EDC, it had been able to act as everything from an “advisor to the prince” to a lobby group. But now the governments had turned a corner and the MFE found itself having to embark on a different journey — one whose duration no one could predict.

This was a time for patience and reflection: patience, because it was no longer a question of engaging the enemy in a decisive battle, as it had been at the time of the EDC, but rather of paving the way for the popular mobilisation that would be required once the time was ripe to tip the balance away from separate nations and towards a united Europe; and reflection, because the political and cultural horizons of the movement had to be broadened to make it better able to withstand the impact of the forces of reaction that lurked everywhere: within society, political parties, trade unions, the press, among the intelligentsia and, above all, in governments. Indeed, the latter, having overcome the trauma of the failure of the EDC, had rapidly abandoned the feeble federalist aims they had all too briefly entertained.

Mario Albertini was the right person to take up all these challenges.

II

The “new path” demanded an exhausting degree of commitment from the federalist militants. Their tasks were to prepare and organise the European People’s Congress (EPC); to try and patch up the sections that had survived the collapse of the EDC; to devise new plans for recruiting and training militants, who could no longer come from the sphere of national politics but needed, rather, to be “a group of free men who, flying in the face of a natural tendency to accept and adapt to the status quo in order to obtain success and further their career, were instead determined to fight for the federal unification of Europe.”[11] In short, a new generation of militants had to be formed, in a new mould, and the right conditions created for fostering the birth of this group.

Spinelli openly tackled this issue in a paper he wrote in 1956. “Federalists”, he observed, “have not created a hardcore group of militants in their midst. I do not use this term in its modern sense, that of low-ranking envelope-stuffing propagandists. The militants that any organisation needs if it is to become a real political force are men driven by political passion, with the ambition to mean something important to their contemporaries, and who have decided to merge their passion and ambition with the aims of the organisation they belong to. Not all members of a movement are militants and if political organisations were made up exclusively of militants they would rapidly turn into sects. However, the members who are totally committed and are staking their political future on the success of their action — those militants form the backbone of every organisation.”[12]

Spinelli was well aware that for federalists the road was going to be uphill all the way; he believed that the new generation of militants needed to be full-time politicians, living for politics, naturally, but also off politics (i.e. making a living from politics); they needed to gain a sense of fulfilment from dedicating themselves heart and soul to the cause of European unity. Only thus could enough determination be drummed up to stay in the field until the final victory. Instead, Albertini had a different idea of the figure and commitment of the militant. Recalling his clash with Spinelli, he wrote: “I wanted… men who turned the contradiction that exists today between values and actions into a personal issue: militants who are professional politicians, but are occupied as such only part-time, and without pay; people who have enough income to live off regardless of whether or not they have power.”[13]

Having sketched a profile of the federalist militant, the next step was to highlight the motives that were leading certain people to look beyond the confines of nationalism. In Albertini’s view, there were several routes by which people could be drawn closer to Europe: one was moral outrage at nation-states denying the values of democracy and equality, and “forcing one to consider the men of other states as foreigners, if necessary to be killed”; another was intellectual dissent, stemming from the realisation that the nation-states were no longer able to solve the great problems of our age; and then there was political will, meaning a determination to focus not just on the issues at hand but also the strategy for solving them.[14] The European cause needed militants driven by all three factors: moral outrage, intellectual dissent and political will. Should just one of these be lacking, the entire construct, meaning the very figure of the militant, would collapse like a house of cards.

A further difficulty was the fact that society does not steer men naturally towards federalism. “No one becomes a federalist on their own, spontaneously, because federalism — like all new things when they first appear — does not exist in the world of established culture. The normal channels for disseminating culture (schools, the press, etc.) invariably adopt the national viewpoint, and consider the world as comprised of liberals, democrats, socialists, communists, Christian socialists, fascists, and so on… In this context, one becomes a federalist only if the circumstances of one’s life bring about a sort of conversion.”[15]

The proselytical activity of the federalist militant thus involved two tasks, the first being to recruit, and the second to train. Recruitment was, in some ways, the harder of the two because it meant reversing the way people regarded not just the politics but also the history of their country, the very fabric of their identity. “The current state and recent history of our countries”, wrote Albertini in 1959, “are leading many individuals to consider the issue of European unity. Yet, in practice, they remain militants or supporters of the nation-state because the national perspective has been impressed on them from childhood in the form of sentiments and images, and most of the stimuli and incentives of today tend to reinforce that. As a result, even when the desire for European unity leaves them torn, national sentiment tends to prevail, until such time as it is eventually uprooted by prolonged contact with an appropriate [federalist] environment. Therefore our recruitment policy must entail continuously attracting new people, and giving them the opportunity to gain meaningful new experiences.”[16]

The second task, training, required uncommon effort on the part of both veteran militants and newcomers to militancy. Militants are not born, they are trained through political struggle, which necessarily goes hand in hand with study and discussion. “It might seem strange”, wrote Albertini, still in 1959, “that to succeed in any political enterprise it is necessary to build the struggle upon a foundation of serious study, with rules and structures of the kind more frequently associated with schools of philosophy than political associations. Yet, in all revolutionary enterprises something of this nature has always existed, because the hardest challenge for the revolutionary is precisely that of making the best use of rationality to direct the struggle towards a new objective in a world in which habit, conventional wisdom and clichés steer men towards old objectives.”[17] Only men who have developed unusual strength of character and powers of reason can develop the skills of the pilot, in other words indicate the way ahead, knowing that for long stretches of time their work will remain unacknowledged, but also realising that if they can speak up when crucial decisions have to be made, their role can be a decisive one.

The activist’s work “behind the scenes” can be carried out only by people who do not depend on others for their survival, and within an organisation whose independence is ensured by the self-financing of its members.[18] If militants want to maintain independent judgements and actions, they cannot reach compromises with anyone. Niccolò Machiavelli effectively explained the fundamental reason for this in Chapter 6 of The Prince. After stressing that “there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new order of things”, Machiavelli concluded by saying: “It is necessary, therefore, if we desire to examine this subject thoroughly, to observe whether these innovators act on their own or are dependent on others; that is, if they are forced to beg or are able to use power in conducting their affairs. In the first case, they always come to a bad end and never accomplish anything; but when they depend on their own resources and can use power, then only seldom do they find themselves in peril.”[19] Stalwart militants of this kind would ensure not only the survival of the MFE, but also guarantee it a significant role in European unification and safeguard the federalist ideology until the goal of a world federal government is attained.

III

Militant federalism is a revolutionary experience aiming to change the course of human history. It is not always easy to live up to this challenge. Many fall into the trap of confusing wishes with reality. Others mistake “the possible for the real, in other words they define policies based on situations that do not yet exist, only because they might materialise sometime in the imagined future”.[20] To escape these perils, reference must be made constantly to the prevailing political situation, i.e. a state’s situation of power, which determines whether a political strategy is feasible and has any chance of success. Albertini lived by this rule, which spared the MFE from embarking on utopian or dead-end campaigns.

Between the end of the 1950s and the early 1960s, all the hopes that had been placed in the European People’s Ccongress, and specifically in its ability, under mounting popular pressure, to call a constituent assembly, had been dashed. This disappointment begged the question: Now what? For Spinelli the unification process could be revived only by engaging in a national political struggle. Albertini, on the other hand, felt otherwise. If the aim was to call a constituent assembly, then first it needed to be decided “in what power situation it is possible to decide to call the assembly”. In a concise analysis of the issue, he wrote: “We are already living in a European confederation, in a de facto condition of European unity, based on the eclipse of national sovereignties and the need for the European states to cooperate closely in the political and economic fields. This is grounds enough to claim that a real basis already exists for the struggle to achieve institutional unity.”[21] The situation of power thus lent itself to a struggle for European federation. But what concrete action could federalists undertake in order to grasp all the opportunities offered by the process?

This was not an easy question to answer because it was not a make-or-break situation, as with the EDC, where it had been a matter of fighting, not deciding. Moreover, after the early success of the Common Market, Europeans were looking forward to a long period of prosperity. In many countries, primarily Italy and Germany, economic integration had brought about a veritable “economic miracle”. Critical positions therefore received a very bad press and the MFE’s unyielding stance was regarded, by governments and national political parties, as extremism.

By 1962 Albertini had become the unofficial leader of the MFE and, along with the majority of federalists who had chosen to follow him, he was preparing to embark on a new campaign: the voluntary Census of the European federal population. At the Lyon Congress in the February of that year, Albertini ended his report by proposing “a ten-year campaign to collect signatures in favour of “a majority for the Constituent assembly of the European people”, with the practical aim of using a means of action that, being within everyone’s reach, can be developed everywhere”.[22] This was a campaign that could be waged by determined chapters and individual militants alike, and it consisted of mobilising organised Europeanism, in the shape of the pro-European and federalist movements, plus organisable Europeanism, meaning potential advocates of Europe (people aware that the nation-state had breathed its last), and widespread Europeanism, meaning Europeanists at large, i.e. those who realised the impact European unity had had on individual citizens.[23]

Europe’s unification process had now developed to the point that an enterprise could be undertaken to raise popular consensus for Europe and pave the way for the final crucial decisions. It was still early days though: public opinion first had to be taught how to make its influence felt, once the time came. “Once Europe has a real government, every citizen will be able, by voting, to strengthen this or that European party, to support the European policy that best corresponds to their ideals and interests. But in today’s Europe, which does not yet exist as a democratic organisation, all people can do is state their support for European unity. So, for the time being, this is the only way Europe’s real power can emerge (in politics, power lies in votes and attitudes): through people declaring that they are for Europe, and through the sum total of these declarations.”[24]

In Albertini’s mind, the Census represented the only opportunity to reach the aims that the European People’s Congress had failed to achieve.[25] In 1966, two years after the start of the new campaign, he wrote: “Once we are closer to handing over power from the nation-states to the European federation, and the need arises for a European partner for this constituent operation, the fact of having already established an organic link between federalists on the one side and the population, the parties, the trade unions and so forth on the other, will facilitate the organisation, based on the Census..., of the European People’s Congress.”[26]

Despite the considerable hopes that the Census would “spread like wildfire”, this did not happen. Like the EPC before it, what it lacked was the support of a network of local organisations across Europe — the kind of support for which the initiative of single militants was simply no replacement. But both ventures played a significant role, as much within as outside the MFE: internally, the EPC and the Census provided an invaluable training ground for a new generation of militants determined to continue federalism’s long journey through the wilderness; externally, they confirmed that it was in fact possible to maintain direct contact with the people and to perpetuate the principle that economic integration alone would not automatically bring political unity of Europe.

There has always been a very clear understanding in the MFE that the economy is not a strong enough driver to create a new state: this also demands a constituent act. Federalists were also aware of the fact that, to fully succeed, economic unity also needed political unity. In this regard, the first significant moment was expected to be the end of the transition period of the Common Market, when everything would come to a head, forcing the political leadership to take a stance. “Europe” wrote Albertini in 1967, “is no longer the mere historic design that it was at the beginning of our struggle. It has become an economic reality with a complex European administrative structure, and a growing political necessity. But alongside this powerful European reality there is a European parliament that still has no electoral base. In asking for it to be elected, we are demanding something that everyone but the enemies of Europe consider to be right. Now we must build on this sentiment… Of course it is not just a question of demanding direct election of the European Parliament, but rather of embarking on a slow and difficult process that will eventually lead to this goal... In practice, it means singling out individual objectives, ones within reach, along the path towards electing the European Parliament, so as to bring about concrete decisions and not just Sunday sermons.”[27]

In deciding to proceed in this way, the MFE abandoned the extremist approach (which, logically, would have meant calling a constituent assembly at the start of the process) and instead opted for a strategy of constitutional gradualism. Neither the EPC nor the Census had been able to oblige governments to call a constituent assembly — not because the idea behind the strategy was mistaken, but due to “the extreme difficulty of calling a constituent assembly at the start of the process, with the parties still so closely bound to national powers”.[28] In preparation for this step, it was necessary to set in motion a process whereby successive constituent acts would force governments to hand over part of their sovereignty to Europe. At the “Congress of Europe” organised by the European Movement in February 1976, Willy Brandt stated that the European Parliament should become Europe’s permanent constituent assembly.[29] The image conjured up by Brandt was very appealing but it suggested a process of indefinite duration, and as such received a lukewarm reception. Conversely, Albertini’s idea of constitutional gradualism set definite goals (based on the existing power situation in Europe) for which a clear strategy could be defined.

The rationale inspiring constitutional gradualism was not unlike the thinking that had driven Jean Monnet to draft his famous Memorandum proposing the creation of the ECSC. After realising that nothing but blind alleys were being met along the entire political front, Monnet went on to comment that: “There is only one way out of such a situation: a concrete and resolute action on a limited but decisive point, which will bring about a fundamental change in relation to that point and help to modify the very terms of the problems.” In Albertini’s view, the point that would change “the very terms of the problems”[30] was the direct election of the European Parliament, because it would plant the first seeds of democracy in the unification process and shift the political scene from the national to the European stage.

The most difficult obstacle to achieving this outcome was the opposition from France. That said, there was nothing to prevent the other countries from electing their members of the European Parliament by universal suffrage. This, therefore, had to be the starting point. On 11 June 1969, a citizens’ initiative calling for the direct election of Italian delegates to the European Parliament was put before the Italian Senate, where it made much progress albeit without, on account of a fortunate coincidence, coming to fruition. Indeed, on 13 May 1974, the President of France announced that he wanted to “adopt or have the Community adopt an initiative to unshackle Europe and stop its dismemberment.” In October that year, the French Foreign Minister, Jean Sauvagnargues, proposed the election by universal suffrage of the European Parliament. The subsequent adoption of this proposal, at the Rome Summit of 1-2 December 1975,[31] would go down in history as the MFE’s first strategic victory.

The initiative of the French government had arrived at a particularly delicate time for European life. The collapse of the international monetary system and the oil shocks were causing increasing monetary turmoil, and the very existence of the Community was under threat. Direct election of the European Parliament would strengthen ties between Europe and her citizens, but this alone would not suffice. Only the creation of a European government could solve the problems that had emerged. However, even when faced with such traumatic events, Europe’s national governments still failed to go the whole nine yards. Therefore, the fabric of constitutional gradualism still needed to be patiently woven, this time by identifying a target area that would sharpen the contradictions in the process and inject greater courage into national governments. Monetary union seemed to be the most promising area in which to resume the battle.

As early as the day after the first monetary storm, Albertini had stressed that currency could represent the slipperiest spot on the slope leading to Europe. “However irrational it may seem, there must be acceptance and support”, he wrote in 1973, “for gradual monetary unification before, rather than after, the creation of a European political power, because those leading the process of implementation… are not behaving rationally… If someone can be prevailed upon to become committed to something (monetary union) that implies a certain requirement (political power), then perhaps that someone will end up having to create it whether they want to or not.”[32]

On 15 February 1992, Europe’s heads of state and of government, meeting in Maastricht, decided to create the single currency. This was another strategic victory for federalism. After striving for 25 years (from 1967 to 1992) for election by universal suffrage of the European Parliament and for the single currency, at last the foundations had been laid for the last decisive step. The European Union now had an elected parliament. And after Maastricht, it would also have a single currency and a European central bank, a further two crucial steps towards the future federal state.

The process of creating a single currency was accelerated by the upheaval generated by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the bipolarism that had prevailed after the Second World War. Events on this scale could not help but affect the fate of Europe. However, although it might have been expected that the European governments — reeling from events that were reshaping the world balance and underlining more forcefully than ever before “the destructiveness of any policy with a national horizon” — would feel an urgent need to unite and decide, once and for all, to take the federal bull by the horns, their response was half-hearted: some of them saw their ties strengthened thanks to the single currency, but none had the courage to tackle the twin problems of defence and foreign policy, in other words, the creation of a European state. “Political union”, wrote Albertini in 1990, “is still largely viewed not only as something distinct from economic union..., but also as an enterprise bound to be slow moving and gradual, like the process that led us to the threshold of the single currency. However, this idea is entirely misguided. In the field of economics it is perfectly possible to move by degrees from a national situation towards an increasingly less national and more European situation, with a government and currency needing to be put in place only at the end of the process. On the other hand, in the area of foreign policy (especially if we are referring primarily to defence and the armed forces, and leaving out the economic domain), such a gradual process is impossible. Whatever the solution adopted, it always involves forming alliances, whether these are loosely or more formally structured. In short, it invariably entails remaining within the national framework, without ever managing to create a European situation that would only need to be consolidated and ultimately secured through the creation of a European political power. With the current approach there is no way out of the national context, as all those who recognise the difference between federation and confederation readily understand.”[33]

In point of fact, the heads of state and of government did acknowledge that it would take more than a single currency to solve the problem of European unity. Indeed, the Maastricht Treaty refers not only to the euro, but also to citizenship, foreign policy, defence and justice. “Currency, citizenship, sociality, foreign policy [and] defence” observed Albertini, “are all parts of a plan for creating a European state. The question now is whether the outcome will be successful or not; whether economic and political differences will create problems; but there is definitely a plan, put together by Europe’s governments, to create European unity by 1999.”[34]

However, the existence of a plan does not mean that success is necessarily around the corner. The intergovernmental conferences staged to iron out the problems that Maastricht left pending did little more than give the Union’s structures a minor touch-up. But federalists were the last to be surprised by this, as they had always known that the governments would try to put off the fateful last step for as long as humanly possible, and would yield only under unendurable pressure.

It is obvious that the nation-state as such has reached crisis point, and it is — or should be — just as obvious that there is “a need to unify Europe” because it is now clear that, as Luigi Einaudi explained in 1954, it is not a question of choosing between independence and union, but of choosing either to join together and survive, or remain apart and disappear.[35] The challenges of history demand a federal response; instead, governments are racking their brains to come up with ever more imaginative ways to avoid the one thing that would solve all the problems at one fell swoop: a European federal state. In this situation, the federalist vanguard can play a decisive role, indicating the only avenue that can lead to the solution, and fighting to achieve it.

After a long and tortuous journey, we seem to have come full circle, or almost. Albertini urged those seeking to envisage the concrete path that will lead to the creation of a European state to avoid falling back on the experiences of the past. A new state is not born perfect, like Minerva springing from the head of Jupiter. On account of “its very nature, the European constituent endeavour cannot coincide with the work of a constituent assembly that is required, within the space of a few months, to draw up a definitive constitution. In Europe, there is no European state simply needing to be given a constitutional form. In Europe, it is, quite literally, a question of creating the state. And the thing that the whole experience of European integration should by now have taught us is that it is only with an initial form of European state (to be established by an ad hoc constituent act) that one can launch the process of, we might say definitively, forming the European state.”[36] The fact that completing the state is a gradual process does not mean — and Albertini stated this repeatedly — that the transfer of sovereign powers from the nation-states to Europe also has to be gradual. This transfer must be the result of a timely decision that makes it possible to make the transition from confederation to federation. Once this leap has been made, the rest will follow.

Except in the case of unforeseeable events, this transition is unlikely to come about in any way other than that of a “federal pact” concluded between the countries determined to give life to an early form of European state. The solution is simple, but the struggle will be long and difficult, because the national political classes will resist the loss of their power, however illusory this may be.

In the early days of his career as a militant, Albertini addressed his fellow federalists thus: “Our difficulties… are no different from those faced by all new things, whether in politics or life in general. The idea that patience is a revolutionary virtue applies to us, too.”[37] But patience is not the same as simply sitting back and waiting for something to happen. It must be viewed as total dedication to the cause for which one has decided to fight.

Sometimes, the most profound lessons are to be found where we least expect them. In a book on his life, Uto Ughi recalls an encounter with the great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia. “Segovia”, he writes, “was a person who possessed profound wisdom, but also subtlety of spirit and sharp irony. He once asked me if I knew the difference between knowledge, wisdom and virtue, before going on to explain: ‘Wisdom is knowing what to do, knowledge is knowing how to do it, virtue is doing it’.”[38] During the long years of his federalist militancy, Mario Albertini embodied, in exemplary fashion, all three of these qualities, without which nothing can be built.


* This is the text of a presentation delivered at the conference entitled Il federalismo europeo e la politica del XXI secolo: l’attualità del pensiero di Mario Albertini (European federalism and 21st century politics: the relevance of the thought of Mario Albertini), held at the University of Pavia on 16 November, 2017.

[1] A very similar definition of militant first appears in a report to the MFE: Rapporto al MFE, Giornale del Censimento, 1, n. 1 (1965), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica. Dalle nazioni all’Europa, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, p. 139.

[2] Il federalismo militante. Vecchio e nuovo modo di fare politica, Il Dibattito Federalista, I (1985), pp. 1-3, reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 445. Albertini’s active involvement with the MFE dates back to 1952, as shown by a letter sent to Aurelio Bernardi on 1 July that year (Daniela Preda, Per una biografia di Mario Albertini: la formazione, la scelta europea e l’autonomia federalista, Pavia, Interregional Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, 2014, p. 49).

[3] Mario Albertini, L’Europa secondo me (collection of interviews on Europe with pro-European politicians, academics and associations, compiled by the Lions Club, Lombardy Region), 1979, reprinted in Mario Albertini, Tutti gli scritti. VIII. 1979-1984, edited by Nicoletta Mosconi, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009, p. 97.

[4] Nazionalismo e alternativa europea. Intervista a Mario Albertini, Il Dibattito Federalista, 10 (1994), p. 37.

[5] This viewpoint is set out, more emphatically, in the preface to Mario Albertini, Il Risorgimento e l’Unità europea, Naples, Guida, 1979.

[6] Mario Albertini, Un eroe della ragione e della politica, in M Albertini, L’Europa di Altiero Spinelli, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1994, p. 18.

[7] Mario Albertini, L’amore dell’Italia nell’Europa, Lo Stato Moderno, 4 (1947), p. 411.

[8] The political commitment of Mario Albertini between 1945 and 1953 has been illustrated by Daniela Preda, op. cit., chapters 1 and 2, and, more briefly, by Flavio Terranova, Il federalismo di Mario Albertini, Milan, A. Giuffré, 2003, pp. 2-6.

[9] Mario Albertini, Un eroe della ragione e della politica, op. cit., p. 18.

[10] Altiero Spinelli, Nuovo corso, Europa federata, 7, n. 10 (1954), reprinted in Altiero Spinelli, Una strategia per gli Stati Uniti d’Europa, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1989, pp. 152-3.

[11] Francesco Rossolillo, The Role of Federalists, The Federalist, 44 (2002), p. 184.

[12] Altiero Spinelli, L’Europa non cade dal cielo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1960, p. 254.

[13] Mario Albertini, Il federalismo militante. Vecchio e nuovo modo di fare politica, op. cit., p. 442.

[14] Mario Albertini, I tre gradi dei militanti, Europa federata, 9 (1956), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 367-71.

[15] Mario Albertini, Il reclutamento e la formazione dei militanti per le nuove lotte del federalismo, L’Unità europea, November 1979 (Supplement), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., pp. 419-20.

[16] Mario Albertini, Esame tecnico della lotta per l’Europa, Il Federalista, I (1959), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Tutti gli scritti. III. 1958-1961, edited by Nicoletta Mosconi, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2007, p. 382. The short chapters making up this text had already been published separately in Popolo europeo, signed Publius. As mentioned in the introductory note on p. 371, the texts were later “revised and completed” by the author and published in a definitive version in 1959.

[17] Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 389.

[18] This principle did not rule out funding for specific actions. Advertising campaigns that had to be run in the press due to the silence surrounding the undertakings of the MFE, even when these involved crucial decisions such as the elections by universal suffrage of the European Parliament or the single currency, were financed partly by militants and partly by voluntary contributions from sympathisers who were not card-holding members of the MFE but who supported its decisions. The same goes for the major events promoted by the MFE during summit meetings between heads of state and of government.

[19] Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Principe, in Niccolò Machiavelli, Opere, I, edited by Corrado Vivanti, Turin, Einaudi, 1997, p. 132.

[20] Mario Albertini, Pregare o forzare, Europa federata, 10 (1957), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 94.

[21] Mario Albertini, La crisi di orientamento politico del federalismo europeo, Il Federalista, 3 (1961), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 111.

[22] Mario Albertini, Rapporto al Congresso di Lione, in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 129.

[23] Ibid., p. 128.

[24] Mario Albertini, Il Censimento volontario del popolo federale europeo, Giornale del Censimento, 2, n. 3 (1966), reprinted in Mario Albertini Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., pp. 147-8.

[25] Mario Albertini, Rapporto al MFE, Giornale del Censimento, 1, n. 1 (1965), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 143.

[26] Mario Albertini, Il Censimento volontario del popolo federale europeo, op. cit., p. 150.

[27] Mario Albertini, Un piano di azione a medio termine, Federalismo europeo, 1, nn. 7-8 (1967), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., pp. 156-7.

[28] Mario Albertini, Tesi per il XIV Congresso nazionale MFE, in Movimento federalista europeo, Atti del XIV Congresso. Roma, 2-5 marzo 1989, Pavia, reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 303.

[29] Luigi Vittorio Majocchi, Francesco Rossolillo, Il Parlamento europeo. Significato storico di un’elezione, Naples, Guida, 1979, p. 105.

[30] Mario Albertini, Il “Memorandum Monnet” del 3 maggio 1950, in Mario Albertini, Il federalismo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1993, p. 273.

[31] On 27 August 1974 French citizens received a very significant message from Valéry Giscard d’ Estaing: “Europe must count on no one other than itself to organise itself, and the modern world will never be truly modern until the map ceases to show Europe as a lacerated area. This is the reason why, over the coming months, France will undertake initiatives towards the political organisation of Europe. There are — I know — all manner of alibis for not forging a political Europe, but there will be no alibi for those who have been called to this appointment with history, as our generation has been called, and who have returned empty-handed. Over the coming weeks France will propose a series of measures regarding the re-launching of the economic-monetary union of Europe; however, it is my intention to address the heads of state and of government of European countries, our partners and our friends, to propose coming together to reflect, during France’s presidency of the Community, on the timing and methods for realising the political union of Europe”. It is disturbing to note that this understanding of the gravity of the events failed to prompt a concrete initiative to achieve political union.

[32] Mario Albertini, Il problema monetario e il problema politico europeo, in Studi in onore di Carlo Emilio Ferri, Milan, A. Giuffré, 1973, reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 174. The original version, in French, was published in Le Fédéraliste, 14 (1972).

[33] Mario Albertini, Moneta europea e unione politica, L’Unità Europea, September (1990), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 322.

[34] Mario Albertini, L’Europa dopo Maastricht: gli aspetti politici, in L’Europa dopo Maastricht. Problemi e prospettive, edited by Silvio Beretta, Milan, A. Giuffré, 1994, reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 338.

[35] Luigi Einaudi, Sul tempo della ratifica della C.E.D., in Luigi Einaudi, Lo scrittoio del presidente (1948-1955), Turin, Einaudi, 1956, p. 89.

[36] Mario Albertini, Elezione europea, governo europeo e Stato europeo, Il Federalista, 18 (1976), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., pp. 224-5.

[37] Mario Albertini, La formula del Movimento, Europa federata, 8 (1955), reprinted in Mario Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, op. cit., p. 351.

[38] U. Ughi, Quel diavolo di un trillo. Note sulla mia vita, Turin, Einaudi, 2013, p. 48.

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