Year XXXIII, 1991, Number 2 - Page 152

 

 

 

FOUR COMMONPLACES AND A CONCLUSION ON THE EUROPEAN SUMMIT*
 
 
 
After the first summit conference of the Six on the European problem, and while waiting for the second, it is worthwhile to note a few details. They are mere commonplaces, but one must be patient enough to repeat them because nobody knows them or remembers them. From a certain point of view the situation is so clear that even the Italian Socialist leader Pietro Nenni, in other words a novice to the European problem, has been able to describe it correctly: “The great absentee in the dialogue [of international politics] is Europe. The Europe of the Six, the Europe of the Seven, the Western European Union, the European Economic Union, the Council of Europe, etc., too many abbreviations for little substance, setting aside the remarkable developments of economic integration which have their foundation and their drive in technical progress and in the ever wider dimensions of production. Europeanism, in its political essence, is at zero point today. The Common Market is not enough to develop a common political will in Europe; the confederation proposed by De Gaulle is the negation of the federation of European peoples [European peoples? European people: the European electorate], the campaign for the summoning of a European Constituent Assembly directly elected by the people [correct, in the singular, therefore the European people] starts off with healthy presuppositions but does not consider very much that new constitutional structures, new legal institutions are valid if they ratify a de facto state, but they do not create one by themselves”.[1] Apart from the considerations of the political basis of the Constituent Assembly, of the Common Market and so on, the picture is correct. We can sum it up like this: we are facing the problem of European unity and it is a matter of choosing among: a) the confederation proposed by De Gaulle, in other words the Europe of fatherlands, b) the Communities, in other words the Europe of officials, c) the Constituent Assembly, in other words the Europe of the people. What should be done? From this point of view everything turns into darkness. So we present our commonplaces.
 
First commonplace.
 
Is the European problem real or imaginary? What is it, how is it different from the social problem, or from those of democracy in France, of national unity in Germany, of the development of the apertura a sinistra in Italy, and so on? This is simply the situation we are living in. Regardless, France cannot have, to the extent to which it would make sense, a French foreign and economic policy (for this reason, being in power, the nationalist De Gaulle has become a “Europeanist”); and neither can Germany, Italy and so on. This is our fortune. If France, Germany and Italy could do this sort of thing, as in the past, each of them would have to try to strengthen themselves and diminish their neighbours. They would rally allies against them, protect their own borders, control economic exchanges aiming at their own power and others’ weakness. But they cannot. It no longer makes sense to choose between the friendship or enmity of France for Germany, of Germany for Italy and so on. From a constitutional aspect governments should carry out a national policy but they cannot: they have to carry out, regardless, at least concerning fundamental questions, a common European one. This is the political basis of the Common Market (there is no market without a political basis), this is the political basis of Europeanism. This is how the elusive nature of European unity can be explained: it exists, but as a situation of power at an elementary state, without political institutions, without any will, without any awareness (rulers think they themselves have chosen, as a national policy, European collaboration). And thus Europe’s political void can be explained, the sense of uselessness that its governments, its parliaments and the congresses of its parties evoke: there is no government, no parliament, no party which can elaborate, and carry out, a true political strategy because in the face of a European situation of power, it can only make national decisions. These are purely tactical decisions, and in any case subordinate to the disorderly clash of European interests, because they are made in relation to a single part (national) of the data which shape the power process.
 
Second commonplace.
 
What is it, what does it count for, how long will this de facto unity last? In the present situation the governments of the Six, due to their inability to control completely the processes of defence and production, have given free rein to interests which can no longer be constricted within national dimensions. Their common European policy is substantially a laissez-faire, laissez-passer approach due to force majeure, as far as the economy is concerned; as for defence it consists of subjection to the USA. European unity is therefore a kind of anarchy based on the de facto eclipse of national sovereignty, on American protection and, finally, on the atomic bomb, which prevents Russia from letting its power overflow into the political void of Western Europe. What does this unity count for? From an economic point of view it counts for a lot, because it has broken down the anachronistic national dimensions of the economy which stopped the development of mass production in Europe; from a political point of view it counts for nothing, because it does not correspond to a struggle for power, and therefore does not mobilize either a European political class or a European consensus, it does not determine either European will or responsibility. How long will it last? This depends on factors outside the will of Europeans. It will last as long as these outside factors – national interests in Europe (with De Gaulle as the prime example), American interests in the world, Russian interests in the world, and pressure on the part of Afro-Asians – combine to maintain the status quo of Western Europe. The internal factors (a small recovery of power due to economic expansion, and consequently more chances for the actual exercise of sovereignty) and the external ones (less power for the USA, more power for the USSR and Afro-Asians) are changing direction. In relation to Western Europe they were centripetal but are becoming, very slowly for the moment, centrifugal. When this centrifugal direction makes itself felt and endangers European unity de facto, the fusion of economic interests will not be able to defend the precarious political unity. As Lüthy brilliantly wrote, after putting forward the hypothesis of a political crisis (he quotes as an example: “an experiment of Pangerman confederation, a military coup d’Etat in France, a popular front in Italy”): “It is ridiculous even to suppose that against frontiers closed instantly after such a crisis there would be an assault by travelling salesmen, board directors, tourists and agencies used to travelling without passports and customs; an assault to open a breach to European unity: allons enfants du marché commun ...[2]
 
Third commonplace.
 
How could this de facto unity, which left to itself is bound to disappear, be turned into an irreversible unity? Only by creating a federal power. There is nothing else to do. It is unpleasant, but there is nothing else to do. The governments of states are of no use. The fact that so far they have carried out a common policy must not delude us of the possibilities of maintaining European unity through the “harmonization” of foreign policies. This fact conflicting with nature – a state exists to make its own policy not that of others – did not depend on the European “goodwill” of those in power, but on force majeure, on the impossibility of doing anything else. If and when they are free to choose, each government will call out its own foreign and economic policy, dividing Europe as in the past. As in Hamilton’s lucid sentence: “To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent unconnected sovereignties situated in the same neighbourhood would be to disregard the uniform course of human events and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages”. On the other hand there is no intermediate body between national governments and the necessary federal government. This is the point from which all difficulties arise. But to hide it from oneself and from others is of no use, it merely avoids the problem.
There is no intermediate station between a system of sovereign states and a federation. Either power is maintained at the national level, and in this case the mobilization of forces and decision procedures remain national. Or it is transferred to the European level, and in this case, regarding the transferred competences, the mobilization of forces and the decision procedures become European. There is nothing in-between. There are empty words, more means for carrying out the policies of the sovereign states: such, in this particular case, are the so-called Economic Communities; such, generally speaking, are confederations, and all organs without any power of their own (proof is the fact that, in spite of ECSC, EEC and EAEC, the fight is always for national power).
 
Fourth commonplace.
 
How can federal power be founded? Not little by little, evidently. Either it is established, by summoning a Constituent Assembly, or it is not established. Either everything is done with a single decision or nothing is done at all. Who should one act upon? On the population? Whether one calls them “the masses”, or “public opinion”, the outright majority has been favourable for a long time, yet, according to Nenni and to all national politicians, the “de facto state” is missing, the one without which it would be abstract to think of the Constituent Assembly. Therefore it is not a matter of the population. Maybe one should act upon economic interests? Those of the “ruling class” have already been for a long time, with liberalization, on the European road; those of the trade unions would like to turn onto it both to face the “ruling class” and because the more integration advances, the more workers’ incomes increase.[3] Yet, as mentioned above, the “de facto state” is missing. Therefore it is not even a question of economic interests. Could it be that traditions, something deeply rooted in each of us represents an obstacle? No, the prevailing political values are Christian, Liberal, Democratic, Socialist, supranational or international by origin and absolutely antithetical, in their bare essence, to national exclusiveness. Thus there remains only the political class. The creation of the “de facto state” thus depends on politicians. But they do not know this, they are expecting it from outside. The engine does not move, everything is still. The politicians do not understand that “outside” (people, interests, values of this Europe which has been of “nations” only for about eighty years), everything has been ready since 1945, and they even forget, as regards Europe, that the task of initiative and choices is theirs. How does this happen? It is simple. They fight for national power, they see the national government as something which depends on them, the rest as something depending on others. And it is impossible to convince them they are making a mistake, that they are bringing Europeans to ruin. “The concept ‘ideology’ – Mannheim writes – reflects the one discovery which emerged from political conflict, namely, that ruling groups can in their thinking become so intensively interest-bound to a situation that they are simply no longer able to see certain facts which would undermine their sense of domination. There is implicit in the word ‘ideology’ the insight that in certain situations the collective unconscious of certain groups obscures the real condition of society both to itself and to others and thereby stabilizes it”.[4] For this reason nations, that are shaky concerns, become thicker in the minds of politicians. For this reason the trivial facts we are illustrating are not generally understood by politicians: in fact they are such as to threaten their powers, both of opposition and of government (Europe can be made “from one day to the next”: “from one day to the next” Six foreign ministers, Six ministers of defence would be swept away, all the positions of power in the parties would have to be reconquered …).[5] Therefore to create the “de facto state” what is needed is politicians who fight for European power – preferably for the constituent power of the European people – and not for national power. It is not easy to find them. To gain power one must take part in politics. But the visible framework of the struggle for power is the national one. What follows is a contradiction: it is necessary to gain power, but if it is gained in the normal way, in the visible framework, it is useless for European ends because one becomes nationalized (objectively: control of exclusively national decision-making procedures; subjectively: ideological thickening of the “nation”). For this reason it is necessary to act within a framework that cannot be seen, the European one,[6] refusing any power (the intermediate pseudostations are positions of national power) until all of it can be obtained (Constituent Assembly): therefore politicians that are “technically” revolutionary are required. Politicians that do not aim, both for themselves and for the others, at immediate interests but only at values, that do not appeal to the contradictions between immediate ambitions and interests, but to the general contradiction between our civilization’s system of values and the actual course of political life (a policy which is analogous to the one carried out by all revolutionary minorities, according to the period, liberal, national, or socialist).
 
Conclusion.
 
Having said this, we are facing a deadline. On May 19th in Bonn there will be the second European “summit”. De Gaulle proposes the confederation: periodical meetings between the holders of national power, plus the secretariats, plus a solemn popular European referendum to start it off. The Communities propose: in conformity with the Rome Treaties, direct election of the Assembly of the Communities (without legislative powers and control of a government that does not exist) and fusion of the “executives” (without “executive powers”) of coal-steel, common market, and atomic energy. The federalists propose: giving constituent power to the European people. What is to be done? Let everyone play their role. Some have managed to demystify the “nation” in their minds, in other words the ideological justification of the existing states. They must stick to the opposition of regime, call for the Constituent Assembly, and not give in. They can understand, they have this responsibility. If they dodge it, Europe will never be made. For them, what counts is the rule that corresponds to the nature of the problem: all or nothing. There are also those who have today, or would like to have tomorrow, some power. The powers of today and tomorrow are national, whoever has them or wants them remains a captive of national ideology. Unless they are enlightened and renounce, unless their national conscience is “self-demystified”, they obscure to themselves the real condition of society, in other words they do not understand the ultimate facts of the political process and can only act superficially. However, they can understand the following observations (and should act consequently):
1) It does not make sense – it is a trick – to fight De Gaulle’s confederation wielding the same kind of weapon: periodical meetings of national ministers (the so-called Council of Ministers of the Community) against ... periodical meetings of national ministers, secretariats to prepare the material for the ministers’ decisions (the so-called Executives of the Communities) against secretariats of the same kind; weapons of the same type, but less effective because De Gaulle’s confederation has a political content, that of the Communities only an economic one; because in the first, words correspond to things, in the second they serve only to conceal them.
2) It does not make sense – it is a dirty trick – to propose starting off the mechanism of European sovereignty, to suggest electing the representatives of the “European people”, and to give them only the “power” of addressing prayers to the national governments. This “Europeanist” project is even more absurd than the one, itself monstrously absurd, with which Schuman and Adenauer deluded themselves they would be able to solve the problem of the European army (before De Gasperi’s aut-aut: either with European political power or nothing). May God forgive them, they wanted to place this army at the disposal of an organization similar to that of the ECSC: they wanted to make a European army, not a European state; they did not want to touch the sovereignty of the states, but they were willing to deprive them of their armies. Just as that kind of European Foreign Legion could not be established, neither can these extraordinary elections be held. If they were held, they would give way to farce; an election campaign in which the candidates would have to promise the electorate: “If you elect me, I will say this or that to whoever has the power to do it”. Quite frankly, De Gaulle’s referendum is better. A referendum is held also to find out what people want. Elections are held to decide who will be in charge. After the referendum we will know officially what we already know: the population is in favour of European unity. After elections like those proposed by the “Europeanists”, and the experience of the fact that national governments would continue to be in charge, Europe would sink into ridicule.
3) It is necessary not to waste time in idle talk and to be concerned with real issues. If one does not think of establishing a federation then one must be concerned with international politics. Outside the federation the only substantial thing, in fact, is the behaviour of the states. This, and not “integration”, must be considered. It is a matter of asking if, from this point of view, the choice between De Gaulle’s confederation and that of the Communities is the choice between two different policies or between two different ways of designating the same policy. Now there is a difference. Whoever thinks of keeping the platform of the Six with the confederation of the Communities has nothing to defend with against those – and they are many, the followers of Erhard – who wish to make it fall. To get rid of the Communities – which do not have any power of their own – it is sufficient not to bother with them; while the division between the EEC and EFTA, which is really absurd if one thinks only in economic terms, will always arouse interest. Along this path it becomes easy, almost natural, to slide from the platform of the Six to that of the Six plus Great Britain and others. De Gaulle’s confederation would be another thing altogether. It would bring to the fore the protagonists, the holders of national power, now conveniently hidden behind the Communities and integration; and the stake: the platform of the Six.[7] It would emphasize the fact that the platform of the Six is a political enterprise, not an economic one: it is the continental Western European entente based at last on peaceful Franco-German relations, in other words the political fact on which all the postwar miracles rest, both economic and otherwise. It would not be easy for anyone, and even less so for people like Erhard, Brandt, Fanfani, and so on, to refuse it. Europeanism remains a necessity; Europeanism in Six, which was a necessity, has become a choice. It is a matter of establishing it or not, assuming the responsibilites for it or not.
 
Mario Albertini


[*] With this article, published in 1961 (n. 2 pp. 63-71), The Federalist had, among other things, taken a position against the direct election of an Assembly of the Community (the present European Parliament), lacking real powers. It might seem strange today that a group of federalists, which included the compilers of this review, could have been against the direct election of the European Parliament (then simply an “Assembly”). And it is true that later on these same federalists fought for direct elections before the attribution of powers. It is worth remembering therefore: a) that the federalists in question had tried from 1957 to 1966 (first with Spinelli, then without him), to obtain directly, i.e. only by means of their action, the convocation of a constituent assembly. They could not but be hostile to summoning the people of Europe to the ballot-box without simultaneously recognising their constituent power; b) that even after the failure of this attempt, they continued to regard the constituent development as the prime target, but also included in this sphere of action the intermediate objectives capable to lead the states close to a European Constituent Assembly by their call for sovereign powers to be exercised on the brink of an inclined plane leading from the nations to Europe; c) that exactly because a Parliament lacking the power to legislate and control the executive is absurd, they felt a European Parliament mishandled in this way would give rise to the idea of a democratic deficit in the Community and the necessity of bridging the gap – which is what has happened.
[1] Pietro Nenni’s report to the 34th Congress of the Italian Socialist Party (see Avanti!, March 16, 1961).
[2] See Herbert Lüthy, “Quando Giove si decise a voler bene ad Europa,” Nord e Sud, VII, 11-12, p. 73.
[3] They want to but they cannot. The “bosses” can, within certain limits, act independently of the states, the workers cannot. The “bosses” can carry out by themselves, with their own administrative apparatuses, their own decisions. The workers, instead, have to avail themselves of organizations such as trade unions and parties to achieve their purposes, and these organizations cannot, either juridically or politically, “jump” the states. Politically, and as members of a trade-union, the workers have to face this aut-aut: either they renounce any effective action at the European level (fighting with their weak national bargaining power against the “continental” power of the “bosses”), or they have at their disposal a European parliament and government, in other words a juridical, political and social framework which allows the European organization of their fighting forces: the parties and the trade unions.
[4] See Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1936, p. 36 of the paperback edition, 1966.
[5] From a “pure” political standpoint the “enemy” of Europe is the ruling political class (government and national opposition). Politicians have the possibility of maintaining division (absolute sovereignty of states) and of creating unity (summoning the Constituent Assembly by means of an international treaty). The political class is the only one with anything substantial to lose by European unity: the positions of power acquired through the national political struggle. When the Americans changed from the confederal (in which the Europe of the Six is in practical terms living now) to the federal regime, they had to overcome precisely the obstacle represented by a great part of the political class that was in power in the states. In the first essay of The Federalist, Hamilton wrote: “... Happy will it be if our choice [between confederation and federation] should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favourable to the discovery of truth. Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every state to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power ...” On the basis of the cheap Marxism universally practised by Christians, Liberals and Democrats, once it was said that “monopolies” were against Europe, and now that they are marching it is said that Europe is made, while the politicians, free from duties and therefore from responsibilities, maintain division to maintain their powers.
[6] Concerning this nothing clearer can be written than what Machiavelli wrote in chapter VI of The Prince (Oxford-New York, Oxford University Press, 1984, pp. 21-22): “And one should bear in mind that there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious to succeed nor more dangerous to administer than to take the lead for introducing a new order of things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old order as his enemies, and he has only lukewarm allies in all those who might profit from the new. This lukewarmness partly stems from fear of their adversaries, who have the law on their side, and partly from the scepticism of men, who do not truly believe in new things unless they have actually had personal experience of them. Therefore, it happens that whenever those who are enemies have the chance to attack, they do so factiously, whereas those others defend hesitantly, so that relying on them is dangerous. It is necessary, however, 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”. The reader will notice how every word of this text refers precisely to all that is at stake in the European problem: the behaviour of politicians, the behaviour of social forces, the weight of institutions.
[7] The Europe that can be established in a predictable future is that of the Six (those who want it to be of the Seven etc. do not know that federations widen peacefully; that establishing it with the Six means to establish the federal nucleus that would then become of Seven, Eight, etc.). What is this Europe? The platform of the Six did not arise from the imagination of men but from the nature of things. When it was a matter of defining who the two main (traditional) elements of German power should belong to: the Rhine industry and the soldiers, it was impossible simply to return them to Germany, and “supra-national” solutions had to be devised (ECSC and EDC). The solution implied that what had been deducted from Germany should also be deducted from the other states, and conferred on “Europe”. The United Kingdom, that had adhered to the OEEC and to the Council of Europe, did not adhere to the ECSC nor to the EDC. The solution, inspired by so-called “functionalism” (the ingenious idea of making Europe piece by piece: one today, one the day after ... so as to feel no pain) was not good, and in a short time Germany regained possession of its soldiers and industries. But politicians really believed the “integration” process of Europe had truly started, and those on continental Europe actually thought they were transferring coal, steel and soldiers to “Europe”. In this manner – misleading in reality but true in imagination – the historical occasion transferred to men’s conscience a de facto state: only in Western Europe is the eclipse of national sovereignties (in relation to the problems to be tackled) so advanced as to make possible – if the virtue of men is sufficient – the transition of the powers of foreign and economic policy from the states to a federal government.

 

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