Year XLIV, 2002, Number 1, Page 21
THOUGHTS ON THE STRATEGY OF FEDERALISTS IN THE CONSTITUENT PHASE
Any argument on the strategy to be followed for creating a European federation must define two things clearly: the power to build Europe and the will to build Europe. Taking this elucidation as a starting point, the strategic choice will inevitably be conditioned by the historical-political framework in which it is placed, that is to say, by the concrete, non theoretical, elements characterising the situation in which the need and the chance to take a step (even the definitive step) towards the political objective has emerged.
The power to build Europe is not something that is easy to define, since its meaning changes depending on whether it is considered in a static or in a dynamic sense. In the first case, it can be affirmed that there is no such thing as a power that can build Europe. In other words, it is impossible to imagine a situation in which someone imposes unity precisely because he has the power to do so. In a process of unification of states, the individual political subjects that are its protagonists, being states, have and retain their sovereign power until such time as the process of unification has been completed. And for this to occur, a simultaneous decision needs to be taken by all those involved.
Considering the question in a dynamic sense, on the other hand, it can be affirmed that the power to build Europe could, at least potentially, begin to manifest itself, were the initiative taken (with a certain amount of determination) by one or more governments, constituting the right response to a pressing problem, to prove able to win the consensus of the others. The concept of occasional leadership is thus the dynamic element that could, in a rather crystallised power situation (that of divided sovereign states), trigger a process that might lead the holders of the old powers to decide to create a new power, or, in the phase of constitutional gradualism, to realise an intermediate strategic objective — an objective whose strategic value would lie in the fact that it implied the relinquishing of sovereignty (for example, in the areas of security and currency).
This question of the initiative is linked, on the one hand, to the objective situation, that is, to the impossibility that national solutions might be found for current problems (the crisis of national power), and, on the other, to the problem of will. A favourable attitude towards European unity is rooted in Europe’s de facto unity and induces governments to look for unitary solutions. But a favourable attitude, on its own, leads governments only towards unitary solutions that are compatible with the retention of sovereignty. The role, and real importance, of the will of governments emerges solely in situations that involve the transfer of sovereignty. And the moments in which this will is expressed to its fullest extent are the ones that become constituent moments — ripe for the final and irrevocable decision to create a federation.
Naturally, the decision and will of governments are not the only factors to consider: the battle for European unification is not a simple agreement between states, but a constituent battle in which the will of a sovereign people must be manifested through the withdrawal of consensus for national powers and through the expression of the consensus needed to sanction the creation of the new European power. But if this is true, it is also true that in the creation of a state of states, which is what a federation would be, the existing state powers could become the executors of the will of the people (should this indeed manifest itself), in so far as they themselves, as autonomous entities, are willing to embody this will and prepared to opt for their own supersedence.
The formation of the will to create a federation, on the part of governments of historically established states, is, in the sphere of the great historical-political transformations, one of the most difficult processes. A rational analysis of the power situation that evolved in the wake of the Second World War ought to have prompted, and indeed should prompt, the holders of power at national level to share (and thus to act on) the idea that their lost sovereignty can be recovered only through the building of European sovereignty. While to do this would mean activating their own self-destruction, what actually prevails in the life of individuals and groups is the spirit of self-preservation. It must be noted, moreover, that this same spirit of self-preservation is what has underlain the progressive advances in the process of European unification and in the formation of a pro-European consciousness. But it is a false consciousness, one that was, and still is, based on the belief that unity can be achieved without facing up to the problem of the renunciation of national sovereignty.
This is why, now that we have reached the crucial moment at which only such a renunciation can save Europe’s historical enterprise from total collapse, the true enemies are not the openly declared adversaries of Europe — these are easily taken on — but rather those who profess their Europeanism while also continuing, through the advancing of ambiguous proposals and formulae, to defend national sovereignty. These are the ones who must be considered the true enemies, first because it is more difficult to expose them for what they are, and second because a false consciousness is more difficult to permeate and less responsive to rational argument.
Nevertheless, federalists, coldly aware of these difficulties, still find themselves faced with the task of “forcing” the governments to make the right choice. But what, in concrete terms, does “forcing” mean? And how can this be compared, on the contrary, with “imploring”? If Machiavelli is to be interpreted literally, the difference between the two approaches depends on whether or not they are founded on an autonomous action. But there is nothing to say that an autonomous action, per se, cannot be directed at interlocutors and antagonists in order to make them play their assigned roles. If we link the idea of “forcing” with an “act of force” on the part of a revolutionary mass that, like a flood tide, would have enough power on its own to sweep away the national powers, then we can discount the other actors who have central roles in the process of unification. In such a scenario, the “revolutionary people” would be the only unprejudiced, free and innocent agent, the only agent with the capacity to free itself from the shackles of the national perspective, the only agent that federalists can look to for an act of force.
This extreme interpretation of the “revolutionary people” idea has already been seen within the European Federalist Movement — during the post-Maastricht debate on strategy. And, albeit in a more muted terms, support is also growing for the idea that mobilisation coincides with mass public demonstrations. The latter can be considered part of a strategic action if, and only if, they become the natural outlet of widespread and coherent action at all levels — an action that must be aimed not solely at demonstrations, but above all at the issuing of the right rallying cry.
On the other hand, a similar interpretation is masked by the view that the Convention established at the Laeken summit might “seize power” and become a constituent assembly. But this idea, too, incorrectly viewed as the concrete implementation of the constituent method, is characterised by a failure to take into account the elements and political subjects involved in a process of unification of states.
When we affirm that the constituent method (as opposed to constitutional gradualism) is the only method that, in situations involving the renunciation of sovereignty, can and should be used, we must, if we are to avoid running the risk of losing touch with reality, be aware of the true significance we are attaching to the term.
In a letter dated July 19, 1980, written to Spinelli at the start of his constitutional campaign within the European Parliament, Mario Albertini, alerted him to this danger. “Your action — he wrote — needs: a) credibility, a measure of belief, however small, in the chance of victory, and thus, b) a relationship with the power process that allows one to imagine that fighting for victory is a real, however remote, possibility. Otherwise, the constitutional action, having set fire to straw, would burn itself out, albeit remaining present, like a shadow to which shape must be given.
In short, your action can be compared to the creation of a pocket within enemy territory — the European Parliament, as long as it continues to be dominated by national powers, will remain in the hands of the enemy — that is to say to a manoeuvre that can be carried out by a small select force but that must be linked, in conceptual and practical terms, with the global action of the greater part of the forces — one’s own and those of the enemy. In other words, an external relationship must be established with those who can decide, those who control the power process.
Let us look at the question in more concrete terms. You talk… of achieving a mobilisation of public opinion through an ad hoc organisation, and feed this hypothesis with ghosts from the past. Quite apart from the fact that organisations (like Europe) do not ‘spring from nothing’, it is important to realise that public opinion (like any other social force) can be mobilised only in support of one power against another power. In practice, if you form a group within the European Parliament (where there is no scope for unilateral decisions), and you link this with an outside group that has no role in the power control process, then you are effectively summing two impotent forces. As a result there is no credibility and the action dies out. If, instead, you link your European Parliamentary group with a section, even a small one initially, of the individuals and organisations that control the power process, then you are releasing and uniting two forces — two currents — that can grow; this will enable you progressively to obtain a level of mobilisation of public opinion (and of the channels — information, etc. — that serve it) that is commensurate with the degree to which the battle has advanced. In fact, all things being well, the European Parliament would become, in this case, the outlet for an action whose other decision-making centre is to be found in the spheres of politics that wield power at national level.
There can be no escaping this power logic. Power needs to be driven out from where it currently lies (with the states) and transferred to where it is needed (Europe). It follows that linking, and at the height of the struggle unifying, two decision-making centres (the new European centre and the occasional leadership of some national ones) is one of the fundamental strategic imperatives in the struggle for Europe.”
In short, to call for a constituent assembly (or to call upon the European Parliament, in the past, or the Convention, today, to fulfil a constituent role) is not enough. It is useless, unless the question is posed of how this assembly might be arrived at, that is to say, the question of the power situation that is needed to promote and to sustain it.
Today, on the brink of enlargement, identifying the power situation in which a constituent assembly might be arrived at means identifying the framework within which historical and political responsibility can emerge. Of course, there exists, as yet, no active expression of this responsibility: if there did, the decision to create a European federation would, in the wake of the creation of the single currency, the conflicts in the ex-Yugoslavia, the events of 11th September, etc., already have been taken. But to identify this framework, which is that of Europe’s six founder nations, is nevertheless the first, indispensable step, because it means identifying a potentially active power framework that can be set against the inert one of the current Union and the totally unswayable one of tomorrow’s enlarged Union.
If this is the case, we must draw the necessary conclusions and focus on the formation of the core that can take the initiative. The difference in relation to the past — in which each strategic phase has, at a certain point, always been characterised by the emergence and then by the accentuation of the problem of the federal core — lies in the fact that the real and definitive renunciation of national sovereignty is a more difficult step than those that the states have taken thus far. This makes the task of federalists more difficult and the responsibility to make the right strategic choice more dramatic. Today, it is no longer possible to imagine or to accept the prospect of a slow advance: there are now too many urgent problems that threaten to lead Europe, if it proves unable to deal with them, to its own ruin. And this would be to deprive the whole world of the moral example and political contribution that its unification would provide.
Having identified the subjects with whom, in the last instance, the final decision rests (the governments) and having identified the framework in which the initiative can be launched, we must a) place the question of a European state on the agenda, b) unite citizens and political forces around this objective, or rather organise and give voice to the consensus for the objective of a European state, and c) hold the field with this objective until such time as someone, from the ranks of the holders of national power, embraces and adopts it. This is what federalists have always done, successfully, whenever a possible advance of the process of European unification was at stake, and it is what they can and must do in the constituent phase as well.