Year XXXVIII, 1996, Number 1 - Page 53

 

 

THE STRATEGY OF THE STRUGGLE FOR EUROPE*
 
MARIO ALBERTINI
 
 
The strategy of the struggle for Europe must be defined in terms of the ultimate objective. This objective consists of the bare minimum necessary to ensure the irreversibility of the unification process and its gradual expansion to the whole of Europe, that is, of a European federation which will include at least the six countries that have assumed the leadership of the unification process. It is therefore necessary to examine the nature of the decision to establish the European federation.
 
The problem of a favourable attitude.
 
The first observation to make is that the decision to establish the European federation represents the most serious decision that can be taken in the realm of political activity, since it implies the foundation of a new state in a new geographical area, in other words a decision which will determine the destiny of the inhabitants of numerous countries for many generations to come.
To the extent to which the states of Western Europe will remain democratic, this decision can only be taken by the individual national governments. However its exceptional nature is such that the governments, granted that they want or must take this decision, will be able to do so only with a maximum amount of political backing. As far as the parties are concerned, this means with the blessing not only of those parties in power, but also of those in opposition, except for national oppositions to the democratic regime itself. As far as the general public is concerned, this means with the approval of all the citizens of all the countries involved (who will therefore feel themselves to form part of a single, though pluralist, people: a people of nations), except for numerically and morally insignificant fringe groups.
This consideration alone already enables us to exclude the possibility that the strategy of the struggle for Europe can be brought to fruition by means of a political party, albeit a federalist one. By definition a party divides the people of a country, whereas in order to take this decision it is necessary to achieve a common platform among the citizens of all countries.
Secondly, the decision to establish a European federation is not only extremely serious, but also very complex. This is due to the fact that, as we will see below, a favourable attitude towards the European federation does not necessarily imply the capacity to take the initiative to found it and to turn this sentiment into a concrete intention. As a consequence, a favourable attitude contains a certain ambiguity (one can be in favour of something without manifesting a real will) and anyway represents only a necessary, but not alone sufficient, ingredient in the European strategy. For this reason, we will deal with the problem of a favourable attitude and the issue of initiative separately.
The attitude of the governments and the peoples towards the European federation is conditioned by both ideological and historical factors.
 
The ideological factors.
 
The ideological factors are comprised to a greater or lesser extent of the doctrines of the political parties and groups, that is, of the great ideologies which dominate the world of politics and which provide the values and the criteria that stimulate and channel political activity in today's Europe. It is not necessary to demonstrate that in politics, liberalism, democracy, socialism, as well as Christianity are without doubt in favour of a European federation at an ideological level, whatever the changing consciousness of individual people may be in this regard. These are forces that without this objective, intended of course as a stage toward the universal affirmation of their values, could not even exist. There can be no doubt on this point. Their values can neither be limited to a single country without being demeaned, nor can they be diffused outside their country without the federalist principle. For such reasons, these forces have always professed federalist principles, albeit in a confused fashion (primarily the confusion of federalism with internationalism) and with peaks and troughs that have been determined by historical events.
On the contrary, nationalism (nationalism as a real doctrine, not as a sentimental attachment to one’s own country), fascism and communism are opposed to federalism. In fact, communism becomes incoherent when it refutes the European federation (as a stage towards the world federation), not only because by doing so it contradicts what it has always asserted during the years of its formation, but also because unless the barriers among nations are overcome it will be impossible to achieve the world-wide emancipation of the proletariat. It is anyway a fact that, from the moment of the decision in favour of socialism in one country, communism has sided wholeheartedly, and indeed with pride, for the intransigent defence of national sovereignties; and that, in Western Europe, it has reiterated this position even with regard to European unification. Nevertheless, it is necessary to distinguish on this subject between political leaders and their voters. National sovereignty, which is defended by communist leaders only in terms of the requirements of international communism, does not in any way correspond to the interests of communist voters, and in practice has not destroyed their heart-felt belief in the traditional ideal of the brotherhood of all workers existing over and above the states, a sentiment powerfully expressed in the slogan: Workers of the world unite!
These observations are valid both for the governments and the peoples and they demonstrate that on an ideological level the political backing does exist. All parties are in fact in favour, excepting the national oppositions to the existing regime, as is the whole population, bar insignificant splinter groups. It goes without saying that the favourable attitude at the ideological level will not be turned into political action until such time as suitable historical circumstances arise, and may even be dampened down if the historical circumstances are unfavourable. In reality, ideological backing means nothing more than that there are no insuperable obstacles.
 
Historical factors.
 
The element which shows up the overturning of the historical situation of Western Europe (and which is present, embryonically, behind the oppression also in Eastern Europe) lies in the fact that military conflict between France, Germany and the other European countries has become totally inconceivable. This situation has been acknowledged by all sensible people, but its real nature can not be understood until it is appreciated that this means that the national states, considered individually, no longer fulfil the fundamental role of guarantors of security, that is, they are no longer states in the true sense of the word, they no longer control the destiny of their citizens. In order to eliminate the mental associations linked to the national terminology of the past, which hinders an understanding of the current situation, it is necessary to describe the new situation with tailor-made expressions that clearly indicate what is about to come to an end and what is about to start in its place. The following expressions would appear suited to this task: the nations have remained sovereign, but we are witnessing the connected phenomena of the decline of national sovereignties and the development of European unity.
The meaning of these expressions becomes clear immediately their connection with another fact is appreciated, a fact which likewise is as universally acknowledged as its consequences are misunderstood. And it is this: at the current stage of development in the European productive process, the dimension of the great problems of foreign, military, economic and social policy have reached a “supernational” dimension, that is, a dimension that is superior to that of the European states, which are typical nations with a unitary concept of sovereignty along the lines of the French model (in this regard it is worth recalling that the United States and the Soviet Union are rather more than simple nations: they are federations, however imperfect, that is to say political communities which, thanks to the duplication of the sovereign representation, can unite different national communities and reach continental dimensions).
The consequences are as follows. The biggest problems, since their size has outgrown the states, can no longer be solved within the states themselves. Theoretically, they can only be solved within a European framework. In practice, since no European political power exists, the problems end up being only imperfectly solved within the limits of the imperfect unity that is compatible with maintaining the formal sovereignty of the states. Nevertheless any unitary solution to these problems, however imperfect it may be, alters the situation such that when new problems arise, their solution requires an even greater degree of unity.
This is the logic of Europe's post-war history, from the Marshall Plan to the present day. This practical logic, which will lead us from one level of unity to the next until federation is achieved, has so far found its most important and advanced expression in the Common Market. The Common Market can not be explained without taking into consideration the decline of the national sovereignties. For as long as the states had to concern themselves individually about security, they were compelled to nurture their own power in relation to the strength of their neighbours; and for this reason to control trade with their neighbours to the extent that this could decrease their power. With the end of this requirement was removed the obstacle preventing the enlargement of economic areas, which is unstoppable in the long run since it corresponds with the expansion of production and our life sphere, from manifesting itself also in Western Europe and from reaching a degree of realisation equal to the degree of de facto unity.
 
Democracy in the sphere of European unification.
 
However, it is important to elaborate to what extent this logic has generated in the past and may generate in the future a favourable attitude to the European federation not only at an ideological level, but also a practical one. To this end, it needs to be kept in mind that this logic has confronted, and continues to confront the parties and national governments with the following alternative: either to accept the policy of European unification, in order to solve, albeit for the time being imperfectly, the major problems; or to restrict themselves to national policy pure and simple, and thereby agree to leave the biggest problems completely unsolved. It is sufficient to note that such an alternative consists of a choice between maintaining and developing democracy or eliminating it (democracy can not survive if it proves unable to resolve the great problems of domestic and international policy), in order to appreciate that the parties whose future is linked to the fate of democracy, as well as being in favour of federation at an ideological level, cannot but be simultaneously in favour of the policy of European unification at a practical level. To refute the European unification process means to opt for the politics of defeatism, of not solving problems in order to exacerbate the situation. It goes without saying that this policy can only be followed, as in fact has happened, by national oppositions to the existing regime, and particularly by the strongest ones, namely the communist parties. This is not to say that their electorate follows them blindly on this subject; rather, the contrary is true. The communist parties can no longer mobilise their electors against the European union, and will certainly not be able to mobilise them in future against the decision to establish the European federation democratically.
At this point, the problem of the ambiguity of a favourable attitude becomes clearer. It is in fact possible to state that the democratic parties are favourable to the construction of Europe, but it is not possible to argue that they have shown, at least up until now, the definite will to establish the European federation. It is a matter of fact that such an initiative has not arisen inside any party, as we will see in more detail below. This does not alter the fact that great opportunities in this respect are created by the reality that all forces which should support this decision (the democratic parties in power and in opposition and nearly all citizens) have been brought into the sphere of European unification and can not exit from it.
This situation has become a permanent fact of political life. The nationalism which has developed anew in recent years is unable to change it. This nationalism depends on the recovery of the states, but the recovery of the states depends in turn on European economic unity, that is, on a fact which specifically denies nationalism, which prevents it developing fully and which will end up by destroying it.
 
The problem of initiative.
 
Also with regard to this subject, it is necessary to analyse the positions of the governments and the people together, rather than separately, since the same fact, comprising the power situation and its evolution, conditions both the former and the latter. However, before dealing with this specific point, it is useful to take a look at the relationship between the gradual formation of the will to take this decision and the development of European integration. No alternative exists if the goal is to remove any possible misunderstandings.
1. European integration and federal initiative. As soon as the states of Western Europe resumed a minimum of international activity in the aftermath of the war, they found themselves immediately caught up in the European unification process, which had been launched by the United States through the Marshall Plan. Nearly twenty years have passed since then, and major progress, especially during the period of the Europe of Six, has been achieved. In order to evaluate this progress better, it is sufficient to compare the aftermath of the First World War with that of the Second. As regards economic development, social integration, the political situation in Germany and its relationships with the democratic states, and so on, the policy of European unification, by replacing the old policy of division, has radically modified, and in some vital sectors actually revolutionised, the situation in Western Europe.
It is undeniable that the gradually advancing unity has enabled us to achieve some impressive results. Precisely for this reason it is important to point out that the gradual unification in the realm of the economy and regarding co-operation among countries has absolutely not been matched by an equal degree of progressive unification regarding the formation of the will to take the initiative to create the European federation nor, and it is as well to emphasise this point, concerning the evolution of the political struggle. The transfer of the most important decisions in foreign and economic policy from the national spheres to the European one, despite some vacillation, is continuous and progressive, such that even the price of cereals is now established at the European level. Yet during this period the life of the parties and the political struggle have not budged an inch, continuing to be restricted to the national spheres. From this point of view, we remain at the starting line.
To the extent to which this point is not understood, it is thought in a mechanical way that the decision to create the European federation is simply the last step in the progressive series of steps that comprise European integration and is not considered to be a separate event. Yet it is sufficient to appreciate that the gradualism in the economic sphere and in co-operation among governments does not correspond to a similar gradualism as regards the formation, inside the parties, of the will to found the federation, to understand that the final step represents instead the need to resolve a power problem, and that this is a problem that is helped but not solved by the integration currently underway.
The past confirms and rounds off this interpretation. At the end of the Second World War it would have been possible to create a federation in the western part of the European continent. The United States was in favour, the resistance movements were for the most part Europeanist, the national military, bureaucratic and industrial interests were debilitated, the people were in favour in a virtual sense, and the problem was open to a solution; the issue was to establish a new order for Europe. Yet the political class then in power, instead of lining up in support of unity, passively rebuilt the national divisions of the past without even realising that there existed the opportunity to overcome them. The opportunity existed once again with the EDC treaty, which by eliminating the armies of the states and creating a European army, posed the problem of a European government. The EDC treaty, signed by six governments and ratified by the parliaments of Germany, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, remained a possibility from 1952 to 1954 and was finally voted down in France by a handful of votes, even though for the whole of 1953 there had been a majority in favour of the EDC in the French parliament, and while Italy, by not ratifying it in spite of being predominantly in favour, had done nothing to speed up the French decision. This shows that European integration is not a linear process but rather a zig-zagging one, that is, a process which can arrive various times at the point where it is possible to take the decision to found the European federation, yet never exploit it.
2. The power aspect of the federal initiative. From the power viewpoint the decision to found the European federation signifies the transfer of control over the army, currency, and a portion of tax revenues and so on from the national governments to a European one. Put more precisely, this entails the transfer in a general sense of foreign and military policy, and of part of economic and social policy, from the national states to a federal state. From this, it follows:
a. That this decision can not be gradual. Many people believe that the decision to create the federation need not in reality be taken as a once and for all decision, since it is simply a matter of achieving it step by step. Yet above all else it is evident that an army can not be controlled partially by the national governments and partially, though to an ever greater extent, by a European entity which does not yet have the character of a real government. The transfer of the armed forces from the national governments to the European one will either happen in a single step, in the very moment when the European government itself is created, or it will not happen at all. Moreover, this is true not only for the army, but also in a general way for the economic and social policy of the federation's competence. In order to transfer these matters, it is necessary also to transfer the “sovereignty” at issue (this means, in an empirical sense, the possibility to take in the last resort the supreme decisions in the spheres defined by a constitution): but the “sovereignty” can not be separated from the electoral reality, which in turn can not be gradually transferred but only handed over in a specific moment.
b. That a tendency to take these decisions will not arise spontaneously within the governments. The obstacle does not solely consist of the fact that the passage from a national system to a federal one is disadvantageous for the parties, since it signifies the elimination of political positions (one head of state rather than six, and so on), the reduction of important parliamentary seats (a single parliament which deals with foreign policy rather than many), and the reorganisation of the parties themselves. The major obstacle lies in the fact that the tendency to take this decision and the general attitude of the parties will diverge for as long as the national power remains stable. In this case the future of the parties depends exclusively on their ability to govern or provide an opposition, that is, and this is the most significant point, on how much they manage to achieve (or manage to generate the hope that they will be able to achieve) inside their own country in the realms of foreign, military, economic and social policy.
This is what is at stake in their manoeuvrings, this the basis of the creation of their political will. European integration drives the parties toward an acceptance of the idea of federation, but the political process, election by election, forces them to declare what their own country will do in the fields of foreign, military, economic and social policy, that is, precisely the opposite of the proposal to hand these competences over.
c. That this decision can only be taken in a supernational European centre and that the governments can support it only in the event that the national power is in crisis. The first point does not require explanation. It goes without saying that a supernational political movement, if it is really such, in other words if it is not dependent on national elections, becomes stronger precisely to the extent to which it demonstrates such a capacity. The second point instead needs some clarification, and this requires a purely typological examination, in which the notion of a crisis of power implies exclusively a lack of power, without necessarily an artificially dramatic consequence and without any consideration as to how crises of this kind may have evolved historically. It is a fact that in the event of a crisis of the national power, the main problem for the parties ceases to be that of exercising power and becomes instead that of the creation of a new power. Now then, it is true that the idea of a European power, since it is foreign to the habits and the established positions of the parties, can not therefore be spontaneously formed in their midst, yet it is also true that they could easily accept it were it suggested to them from outside, because a European power would be stronger, more democratic and less subversive than any other power formed at the national level as an alternative to a previously existing democratic power. This requires of course that the European power be organised in perfectly democratic terms, so as to gain sufficient force to resolve the crisis through the participation and the support of the people. This formula can be none other than that of the constituent power of the European federal people, since there exists no other way to recognise the right of Europeans to decide the nature of the federation for themselves than through a constituent assembly.
The above has brought to light the two essential features of the European strategy: the crisis of the national power and the action of a supernational vanguard capable of taking the initiative to demand the European constituent assembly. It is now time to examine them.
 
The crisis of power is not an uncertain, far-off and unpredictable fact, but rather it is already evident in embryo. No state on the European continent has established a stable democratic order since the French revolution. Political life has been repeatedly interrupted by crises of regime. Even nowadays, the crisis of the state represents one of the fundamental features of political life in Western Europe, so much so that not only the experts, but also the political forces themselves, are everywhere faced with, alongside the normal problems of government, the specific problems of the constitution and regime. Though more evident in France than elsewhere, this phenomenon is generalised.
It is superfluous to demonstrate that the crisis of the state is a premise to the crisis of power. It is instead necessary to identify its nature. The parties try to solve the former within the national framework without taking European integration into account, without realising that it radically modifies the functioning of the states or understanding that it is the cause of the crisis. The crisis of the states and European integration are two aspects of the same phenomenon. The same fact, the dimension of problems, sets both of them off. The irresistible trend toward European unity is due to the fact that the problems of government (defence, foreign policy and the economy) have taken on a supernational dimension. Yet precisely this fact is provoking the fatal decline of the national states, their crisis, and in the long run the crisis of their power. Ultimately, European integration represents the process of overcoming the contradiction between the scale of the problems and the size of the national states. For this reason, to the extent to which European integration advances, it also moves forward both the crisis of the national states’ power and the creation of the alternative at the European supernational level.
Despite the fact that few people realise it, there can be no doubt about this. The advance of European integration creates day by day a pluralistic European society, that is, it destroys the very foundation of the national states, which is the exclusive national society. This nevertheless involves the preparation of a specific moment of transition, rather than a gradual transition, not only because there can be no gradual passage from national sovereignty to the federal one, but also because through the formation of a large-scale economy European integration restores an apparent vitality to the exclusive national powers, prior to demolishing them. In practice the crisis will evolve according to the following mechanism. For as long as the states face European-scale problems for which co-operation among themselves is sufficient to provide a joint solution, that is, matters which remain within their capacities, they will retain some power. Yet when they will face European problems for which a joint solution requires a European government, they will suddenly find themselves powerless. This point is of great interest since it demonstrates that the crisis, despite being the driving force behind the process of creating the federal government, could develop externally in a thoroughly normal fashion. It is a matter of fact that in such cases the governments would face this alternative: either to avoid the problem (or simply appear to solve it), or to create a European government in order to solve it. In other words, there will appear within the normal political process a possible supernational trend, and in exceptional cases there will be presented the opportunity to found a European government, provided that the federalist vanguard, strengthened by the circumstances, will be able to make the governments accept the solution of the problem that corresponds with the creation of a European government, even if this European government were to assume a constituent form only at a later date.
Such a situation has already come to pass with the issue of the European army; and it will reappear between 1967 and 1969. The end of the Common Market's transition period will pose the issues of the currency, customs and European economic policy. Likewise, the expiry of the North Atlantic Treaty will pose the issue of a new defence system for Europe. This concerns problems which specifically can not be solved without a European government. In theory, they can perhaps be postponed, though this is uncertain, through an enlargement and a temporary dilution of European integration, yet they can not be laid aside for ever, since they are inherent in the nature of integration itself. Therefore the crisis is inevitable, even though its evolution is also partly dependent on human will; in this specific case, on the governments’ proposal to maintain a structure of six countries and on the capacity of the federalist vanguard to keep up the fight.
It needs also to be pointed out that, in the event of a severe crisis on account of a lack of responsibility by the governments, the crisis will not necessarily emerge at the same time in all countries. Nevertheless if, as is likely, the crisis strikes France or Germany first, and if the federalist vanguard immediately and everywhere channels the crisis toward the European constituent assembly, it will be enough for the French or German government to ask for the constituent to be summoned in order to avoid a disaster in their own country, for the crisis of power to be set off also in all the other countries and for them to line up in favour of the European alternative.
 
The federalist vanguard represents the theoretical and practical consciousness of the European nature of the fundamental political alternative. As a specifically theoretical awareness, it is founded on the theory of federalism and on the demystification of the nation. Nationalists, both genuine ones and opportunists (such as the communists) claim that no popular entity can be created beyond national ones, and hence not even a democratic European power. In order to expose the nationalists, it is necessary: (a) to demonstrate that the real characteristic of nations is no more than a spontaneous phenomenon of a territorial (one’s own birthplace) or cultural (a common language) nature, and absolutely not the non-existent racial unity of the French, Italians, Germans and so on (the ideological fiction for justifying the closed, exclusive and tendentially monolithic nature of the national state); (b) to identify clearly the popular organism which is being created through European integration: the European people, which represents the meeting of the spontaneous European nationalities (a pluralist, federal people).
As a specifically practical awareness, the federalist vanguard signifies opposition to the community, which is different from the typical opposition to governments or regimes since, instead of refuting a particular government or regime, the federalist vanguard rejects the national community as an exclusive political community. Only at this point does the decision in favour of a European federation abandon the vagueness of good intentions to become a definite will, a real and effective political attitude, that is, a daily relationship with the power structure. Those who do not aspire to this level operate inside the framework of the management of the exclusive national powers, even if they sincerely desire European unity, and therefore perceive only the events which maintain the national framework. Those who instead reach this point, that is, those who act to destroy the exclusive national powers, put themselves in a position to observe also the events of European integration that are undermining the national powers, creating at the same time, through a de facto unity, a de facto European power, and can exploit such events politically.
This exploitation, namely the opposition to the community, is not easy. Its negative aspect, the rejection of the exclusive national power, is evident, yet its positive aspect, the struggle to transform the de facto European power into an established, democratic power that is entrusted to the people's will rather than to the blind force of events, is complicated. A power which has not yet been constituted remains invisible. In the case in point, only by analysing the situation in a rational way is it possible to distinguish, behind the facade of European integration, what will constitute this power: the European people in-the-making. On the other hand, an as yet unconstituted power does not make any decisions, that is, it neither favours nor damages any immediate interests: it remains outside the balance of these interests and hence also outside normal politics. For this reason, those who fight for the European power seem to be fighting for nothing. They can not organise immediate interests, nor exploit the possibilities of the existing balance of forces, but must act only with the aim of introducing a new element into this balance in order to create an opportunity that would otherwise not exist. Since they propose the constituent assembly (a solution that will always remain outside the realm of reality until the very moment of the crisis), they are able to fight only thanks to the contradictions of the normal political process, which presents problems that normal politics is unable to solve.
As we have seen, the major political and economic problems can not be satisfactorily solved in the sphere of the national states. Therefore, in periods when such problems arise, those who fight for the European power can join the battle alongside those who seek a real solution, whereas in periods when, in order to resolve problems with its imperfect means (the national governments and European co-operation), normal politics contents itself with imperfect and precarious solutions, the supporters of the European power must instead withdraw from the battle, denounce the compromise and constantly lie in wait for those who remain in the national framework. That is all. The commitment to the real solution of these problems coincides with the gaining of awareness of the European nature of the political alternative, that is, with the strengthening of the federalist vanguard and with preparing the initiative to decide in favour of creating the European federation. Compromises based on precarious solutions or the continuous fleeing forwards into an illusory future, represent a persistence with the national way.
 
The foundation of the European federation.
 
A struggle of this type, because of its practical and intellectual difficulties, can only attract a small portion of those people who regard the contradiction between events and values as a personal matter which concerns them. Yet these people are enough. As long as the problem which will set off the crisis remains distant, the issue is simply one of survival, of entering and exiting the political balance with a flexible tactic that aims at building political fronts and of organising what already exists in the heart of the people, the European aspiration (diffused Europeanism), so as to have a popular platform ready at the decisive moment. Organised Europeanism (the MFE etc.) is sufficient to achieve this goal. Moreover, as this problem approaches and the European nature of the political alternative will become easier to understand, many of the above-mentioned type of people (organisable Europeanism) will end up embracing the federalist cause. And this will be a sufficient base for lighting the fuse of the decision to found the European federation. As in any technically revolutionary enterprise, the crisis of power, “with its high conductivity of ideas”, will do the rest. In this situation the watchwords corresponding to the need for power will “produce by themselves thousands of channels”.


*This article was published in French in Le Fédéraliste, VIII (1966).

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