Year XXX, 1988, Number 3, Page 230
The centenary of Jean Monnet’s birth was solemnly celebrated in Paris with the transfer of his earthly remains to the Pantheon. Never before had a person, so closely identified with the battle for European Unity, been accepted in the temple in which the glories of France rest. In the course of a moving ceremony which took place in the square outside the Pantheon, Jean Monnet’s voice, which boomed out from an old recording, recalled how “The United States of Europe are the only inheritance which we can leave to our children”.
For Monnet, this was no ceremonial phrase. In his memoirs, published in 1976, he stressed how nobody can transmit his own wisdom to others. The only asset that can be left to later generations are good institutions. This is a rule that Monnet never foresook.
Born in Cognac in 1888, he came up against the harsh reality of politics at the beginning of the First World War. Exempted from military service for health reasons, Monnet felt unable to remain indifferent to the fate of so many of his contemporaries cut down by war. His impatience became greater as soon as he realized that 19th century institutions were completely inadequate in facing up to a conflict of infinitely greater proportions than those of the past (“the conditions of war had changed, the war machine was called on to squeeze all the resources of a nation, and it was necessary to invent unprecedented forms of organization”).
Thanks to a family friend Monnet managed to meet the French Prime Minister Viviani who accepted his suggestions. From that time onwards, he actively participated in solving Europe’s and the world’s greatest problems. He contributed to organizing links between the allies during the First World War, took part in the economic and financial reconstruction of many countries affected by the postwar crisis, encouraged unity among the French Resistance in Algiers, led the French Commissariat in this plan, invented the European Communities formula (starting with the ECSC), promoted the creation of the European Council when he realized that the EEC was languishing through the lack of initiative and, finally in the last years of his life, vigorously supported the need to elect the European Parliament by universal suffrage.
Jean Monnet reached the highest point of creative activity when, faced with the blind alley in which the European states had ended up following the end of the Second World War, he realized that the only way out of the impasse would be the construction of a strong European Unity, which would have restored Germany’s dignity, offered solid guarantees of peace to France, and ensured Europe’s independence vis-à-vis the US. From this intuition was born the European Coal and Steel Community. Its origins lay in a clear awareness that the problem to be solved was Franco-German rivalry. But although the objective was clearly identified, the means to achieving it were far from clear. Little by little, the idea that the problem could not be tackled in its entirety grew up in Monnet’ s mind. On the contrary what was required was “concrete and resolute action on a limited but decisive point, which progressively changed the terms of the entire set of problems”.
This approach inspired the memorandum written on May 3rd 1950, which was published for the first time by Le Monde on May 9th 1970 with the following explanatory note: “On April 28th 1950 Jean Monnet sent Georges Bidault, the French Prime Minister, a typewritten text of little more than three pages, in which he expressed the famous proposal to ‘put French and German production of coal and steel together under one common High Authority, in an organization open to the participation of other European countries’. Monnet saw this as ‘the first basis for a European Federation which is indispensable for the protection of peace’. This text was sent on the same day to Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister, through the good offices of Bernard Clappier who acted as an intermediary. It was a Friday. On the Monday morning, May 1st, on his return from a trip to his constituency in Metz, Schuman simply told Clappier: ‘I’ll see to it’. On May 4th, Jean Monnet sent a new memorandum to Bidault and Schuman dated May 3rd, which explained the reasons that had led him to propose the coal and steel community.”
Le Monde rightly stresses that Monnet saw the ECSC as the “first step towards a European Federation which was indispensable for peace”. Monnet had with great lucidity understood the nature of the problem to be solved, had clearly identified the final objective (federation), but had ingenuously believed that the functionalist method would have been enough to achieve it. The history of European unification has demonstrated that the blind faith shown by Jean Monnet in the spontaneous evolution of the Community towards federation was unfounded. But despite this, his work is no less significant: thanks to it the terms of the European problem have radically changed. The Communities have eliminated the remaining tensions between European countries, have guaranteed a period of prosperity without precedence and have opened up the road in the battle for the construction of the United States of Europe. And the fact remains that Jean Monnet’s intuition of the importance of “concrete and resolute action on a limited but decisive point” continues to be a basic teaching for federalist struggle.
THE MONNET MEMORANDUM OF MAY 3 1950
Anywhere we wish to turn in the current world situation we find blind alleys, whether it be the growing resignation that war is inevitable or the problem of Germany, or the continuation of French resurrection and European organization or the place of France in Europe and the World.
We can escape from this situation only in one way: with a concrete resolute action on a limited but decisive point, which leads to a basic change on this point and progressively modifies the terms of the problems as a whole.
This is the spirit in which the proposal in the appendix was formulated. The reflections which follow summarize the thinking that has led to this proposal.
1. Minds are concentrated on a simple and dangerous objective: the cold war.
All proposals, all actions are interpreted by public opinion as a contribution to the cold war.
The cold war, whose essential objective is to make the adversary give in, is the first stage in war proper.
This prospect creates a rigidity in political leaders that arises from the pursuance of a single objective. The search for the solution of problems disappears. This rigidity of objectives and thinking inevitably proceeds, in all kinds of ways, towards the conflict which is in the inevitable logic of this perspective. From this conflict war will be born.
Indeed, we are still at war.
We need to change the course of events. To do this we need to change the spirit of men. Words are not enough. Only immediate action on an essential point can break out of the current situation of stasis. Profound, real, rapid and dramatic action needs to be undertaken which changes things and makes them enter the reality of hopes in which the peoples are beginning not to believe any more. Thus they will be able to give the peoples of “free” countries a cause for hope even for the most remote objectives which will be entrusted to them, and active determination in pursuing them.
2. The German situation will rapidly become a dangerous cancer for peace in the near future, and immediately for France, unless its development is directed — for the Germans — towards hope and collaboration with free peoples.
This situation cannot be achieved with the unification of Germany since this would require a USA-USSR agreement which is impossible to conceive of at the present time.
It cannot be achieved with the integration of West Germany into the West
— because as a result of this West Germans would be in a situation where they accepted separation vis-à-vis the East whereas unity must be their constant objective;
— because integration raises the problem of Germany’s rearmament and would lead to war constituting a provocation for the Russians;
— for insoluble political reasons.
And yet Americans will insist that integration should take place,
— because they want something to be done and they have no other ideas which can be implemented immediately;
— because they doubt French solidity and dynamism. Some think that they must promote the creation of a replacement for France.
We should not attempt to resolve the German problem which cannot be resolved on the basis of current data. We must change the data by transforming the German problem.
We must undertake dynamic action to change the German situation guiding the German spirit, and not seeking a static solution on the basis of current data.
3. The continuation of the resurrection of France will become impossible if the question of German industrial production and its competitive capacity is not resolved rapidly.
The basis for the superiority that French industrialists traditionally recognize Germany is the latter’s production of steel at a price which France cannot compete with. The disadvantage of the entire French production, they say, derives from this.
Germany is already demanding to increase its production from 11 to 14 million tons. We refuse, but the Americans will insist. At the end we will make reservations but we will give in. Meanwhile French production is not increasing but is in fact decreasing.
We need only mention these facts, even without illustrating them to realize their consequences: an expanding Germany; German dumping in exports; calls to protect French industries; blocking or counterfeiting of trade liberalization; reconstitution of prewar cartels; possible development of German expansion towards the East, prelude to political agreements; France falls back into the routine of limited, protected production.
The decisions which will lead to this situation are about to be discussed, if not taken, at the London conference, because of American pressure.
Now, the USA does not want things to work out in this way. They will accept a different solution provided that it is dynamic and constructive, particularly if it is proposed by France.
With the solution proposed the question of the domination of German production disappears, which, if it arose, would provoke a constant disturbance, and finally, would impede the European Union and would cause a new loss in Germany itself. This solution creates for German, just as much as French and European industry, the conditions for common expansion in competition but without anybody’s domination.
From the French point of view, this solution places the domestic industry on an equal footing as compared with German industry, eliminates dumping in exports which would otherwise be practised by the German steel industry, allows French industry to participate in European expansion without any fear of dumping and without the temptations of a cartel. Thus the fear will be eliminated which drives industrialists towards Malthusianism, the blocking of “liberalization”, and, finally, towards the return of past practices. The greatest obstacle to the continuation of French industrial progress will thus be removed.
4. We have so far been involved in an effort to organize the West economically, militarily and politically: OECD, the Brussels pact, Strasbourg.
The experience of two years, the discussion of the OECD on agreements for payment, the liberalization of trade etc., the rearmament program submitted at the last meeting in Brussels, the discussions in Strasbourg, the efforts — which remain without any concrete results to reach a customs union between France and Italy show that we are not making any real progress towards the goal we set out to achieve, which is the organization of Europe, its economic development, its collective situation.
Britain, however much it desires to collaborate with Europe, will do nothing that will lead to a slackening of its ties with the Dominions or which will commit it to Europe beyond the agreements made by America herself.
Germany, an essential element in Europe, cannot be committed to European organization at the current stage of things for the reasons given above.
Certainly, the continuation of action undertaken on the roads we are currently committed to leads us down a blind alley, and also risks our missing the period of time during which this organization of Europe would still be possible.
Indeed, European peoples hate to hear only words. Very soon they will no longer believe in the ideal that governments will persist in offering them without, however, going beyond the vain discussions of futile meetings.
Public opinion in America will no longer support common action and American participation if Europe shows no dynamism.
For future peace, the creation of a dynamic Europe is essential. An association of “free” peoples, in which the USA participates, does not in fact exclude the creation of one Europe; on the contrary — since this association will be based on freedom, and hence on diversity — Europe, provided that it is adapted to the world’s new conditions, will develop its creative faculties and become a kind of balancing force.
We thus need to abandon the forms of the past and go down the road of change either with the creation of common basic economic conditions, and, at the same time, with the creation of new authorities accepted by national sovereignties.
Europe has never existed. It is not the sum of sovereignties brought together in councils that creates an entity. We really must create Europe; it really must manifest itself to itself and American opinion. Europe must have faith in its future.
This creation, when the problem arises of an association with an America which is very strong, is indispensable to show that European countries do not follow the road of facility, do not give way to fear, believe in themselves and create without delay the primary instrument in the creation of a Europe within the community of free and peaceful countries, to which Europe will bring equilibrium, and the continuation of its creative thinking.
5. At the current time, Europe can only be born from France. Only France can speak and act. But if France does not speak and does not act now what will happen?
A grouping will take place around the USA but only to carry out the cold war with greater strength. The obvious reason for this lies in the fact that European countries are afraid and are seeking help. Britain will come closer to the USA; Germany will develop rapidly and we will not be able to avoid its rearmament. France will fall back into Malthusianism and this development will fatally end up with its decline.
6. After the Liberation the French, far from being downtrodden by their difficulties, gave evidence of their vitality and faith in the future: development of production, modernization, transformation of agriculture, promotion of the French Union, etc. Now, during these years the French have forgotten Germany and its competition. They believed in peace. They suddenly found Germany and war.
The growth of German production and the organization of the cold war resuscitate in their soul the feelings of fear typical of the past, and would cause Malthusian reflexes to be born again. They would thus fall into their psychological condition of fear precisely at a time when boldness would allow them to eliminate these twin dangers, and would allow French spirit to achieve that progress for which they are prepared.
In this economic situation, France is marked by its destiny. If we take the initiative which will eliminate fear, which will allow hope to be renewed in the future, which will make it possible to create a peace force, it will have freed Europe. And in a freed Europe the spirit of men born on French soil, living in freedom and in material and social conditions which are constantly in progress, will continue to make its essential contribution.
(Prefaced and edited by Giovanni Vigo)