political revue

Year XXIX, 1987, Number 3, Page 218



One cannot help but be struck by the increasingly serious tone of the discussion in The Federalist about the construction of a partial world government as a task for this era. In 1984 it posited in general terms the necessity of world government in the opening editorial of its English language edition. In 1986 it offered a magisterial editorial survey of possible “Roads towards World Federation”. In 1987 it published an incisive discussion of the problematic and the main way forward by Sergio Pistone under the title “Europe and the World”. Without covering all this ground again, I should like to add several comments by way of extension and supplementation of what has been said already.
Establishing a Link Between World Government and Existing Political Reality.
The key passage of the article of Prof. Pistone comes after he has shown that a stable world federation must also be a world democracy, yet humanity cannot wait for the logical precondition of national democracy to be realized everywhere before the project gets underway: “If we wish to make the debate on transition to world unity less generic, then we need to formulate reasonable hypotheses about the start to the process and the guiding idea in this context is that of partial world government formulated by Einstein… a partial world government which from a political and economic point of view is sufficiently strong to gradually involve the rest of the world in world unification (by causing the vital premises to mature), to carry out, in other words, a locomotive-type role comparable to that carried out by the Franco-German pole and by ‘little Europe’ with regard to European integration… In the current historical situation, which seems destined to last for quite a while, the creation of a partial world government with these characteristics can only occur in the Northern hemisphere… It is possible to identify two possible platforms. The ideal platform is a convergence between all the main components of the Northern hemisphere, i.e. the USA, the USSR, Europe and Japan… If, however, the necessary (democratic) premises for the full participation of the USSR, from the very beginning, in the construction of the partial world government were to be delayed excessively, the historical reality of the problem of world unification might force the choice of a more limited initial platform, including the USA, Western Europe and Japan. In this case, the problems of ending the East-West conflict and the democratization of the USSR would become the priority themes of the external action of the partial world government.”
These formulations bespeak the essence of seriousness: the readiness to bring the ultimate ideal down from the lofty pinnacle of perfect dreams where it is unsulled by any trace of reality, to the level of the most practical proposition for realizing what is essential in it. This is a welcome addition to the discussion of world government; too often the very difficulty of the task has induced a total disjunction between the rhetorical idealism of its proponents and the rhetorical realism of its opponents.
It is possible to carry the reasoning one step further, and thereby to establish the concrete links of the goal with present actuality. It is not only a matter for the future that it might happen that the immaturity of the political premises in the USSR will force a more limited choice. This has been the situation — the contradiction — that the world has been living under since the explosion of the atomic bomb first announced the necessity of world government in some historically proximate period of time. It is the situation that the world still faces, although the changes in Russia bespeak a possibility of rapid transformation of this situation. How best to encourage the transformation of that possibility into actuality will be considered further on.
Under the circumstances of blockage at the global level, the development of arrangements linking the three remaining pillars of the North — Europe, America and Japan — has proceeded. It has not yet proceeded in the sense in which Prof. Pistone speaks of a consciously federative construction of an embryo of a partial European government in the Schuman Plan. But it has proceeded along lines of development of interrelations and commitments which, while they all formally proclaim themselves merely intergovernmental, nevertheless in the totality of their significance go far beyond traditional intergovernmental cooperation. OECD, G-7, NATO, the North Atlantic Assembly, in a sense also the EC (which bears a relation to this wider unity somewhat as Benelux once bore to the EC), and in the opposite direction GATT, IMF and the World Bank (which have illustrated already, despite the power politics distortions that are guaranteed by their intergovernmental forms, some of the broader potential role of the OECD grouping for partial world governance): through this alphabet soup of institutional relations, through with the mutual commitments for defense, the deep economic interpenetration, the common cultural and political heritage of Europe and America (and to a lesser extent Japan), through the symbolic impression made by the regular meetings of the heads of state in the Economic Summit — through all of this, the Trilateral region has come to be felt as a genuine region of the world. It is the world’s first actual intercontinental “region”. Further, this region has come to feel itself as a community of destiny; a badly flawed community of destiny, to be sure — flawed by reliance on American hegemony for any motion, by feebleness of common institutional authority, by European incoherence, by trade disputes, by sharp fluctuation in national currencies and national politics — but a community of destiny nonetheless, and in all the major spheres of public life: political regime, defense, culture and economy.
This means that it is not a matter entirely for future choice, weather to begin from an ideal platform or from a smaller platform. The beginning has already occurred. Let us not forget that European integration did not begin ex nihilo with the ECSC. Before the Schuman Plan the stage had been set by a build-up of institutions and commitments (Brussels Pact, Marshall Plan, Council of Europe, NATO) to which the build-up of Atlantic and Trilateral institutions bears close comparison. The question is not weather at some future date to choose among platforms, but how to endeavour to develop within the existing Trilateral platform the will to include in those bonds a federal embryo.
The Propelling Role of European Federalism.
In developing this will, the concluding remarks of Prof. Pistone about the propelling role of European unification assume redoubled importance. If many objective factors and relations have matured for the foundation of a partial world government from within the OECD platform, the subjective factors have decayed since 1945 with the fading of the memories of total war and the routinization of nuclear terror. Where in Europe in the late 1940s there was a strong build-up in the European Federalist Movement, the Hague Congress and the European Movement toward the building of an embryo of a European government, in the subsequent decades there has been a build-down of federalist influence on all levels. Only in Europe has the project of federation retained any existential link with public political life; thus the struggle of European federalism has become the existential struggle of all international federalism. If it succeeds in establishing a European government, it will, through the mere fact of that success — and also we may hope through the actions of that government — propel to renewed life all other projects of international federalism. It follows that the first and greatest responsibility in building toward a world federation is to redouble the effort for European federation and to rescue European integration from the ahistorical pace of its gradualism.
Having said this, it is necessary to add that this task, which is the first and foremost task of European federalists in this period, is not and cannot be the only task of European federalists in this period. We must be wary of overly simplistic formulations, which can lead to the negation of vital opportunities, every bit as much as we must be wary of fuzziness of will or orientation.
Three Parallel Overlapping Staircases, not Disjoint Consecutive Steps.
In this context, it is necessary to amend and refine the popular image that international unification proceeds in discrete stages, moving stepwise from the regional (European) level to the intercontinental (Atlantic, Trilateral) level and then the global level, with each step to be completed before the next has begun. Already decades ago, steps were taken on all three of these levels. The movement on these three levels is not a movement in three discrete consecutive steps but might be more accurately visualized as a movement along three parallel staircases. The movement proceeds at different paces on the several staircases, and on all three there has been too much shuffling sideways and not enough movement upward, but movement proceeds on all three at the same time, on all three it is possible and necessary in the present period to take further steps upward. They will reach their respective top landings in three consecutive stages, but the movement up them is parallel as well as consecutive, that is, it is overlapping.
The movement up the European staircase has been fastest and strongest. Its goal remains formally avowed by European institutions, and informally by the people of Europe as a destiny to which they expect someday to arrive if history gives them the time. Its progress has slowed substantially in comparison with the early years, yet progress there still is, and if speeded up, Europe would soon arrive at a landing on the staircase from which it could announce the formation of a European government. European government is not, as we have seen, in any logically meaningful sense “the first step”, but it is overwhelmingly probable that it will be the first international federation and as such a crucial step, a moment of renewed hope and vibrancy, in the long tortuous march toward world government.
The movement up the Atlantic/Trilateral staircase has been slower. As with Europe, its best period was in the decade and a half beginning in 1947; indeed, the European and Atlantic construction proceeded so much more vigorously in those years because they proceeded hand-in-hand as mutually supportive endeavors. Since the formation of OECD in 1962, there has been much sideways shuffling and a few small steps upward — mainly the Summits and G-7, which have added some living political significance to the OECD grouping and may be portents of greater future steps. The recurrent crises in Atlantic defense relations and Trilateral trade and currency relations give a recurrent impetus to searchings for more effective means of policy integration. The weakness of federalist influence, however, has enabled Deutsch’s consultative-pluralistic approach to integration, i.e. confederalism, to play the predominant role in these searchings, fading occasionally into a functionalism without federalist embryos. Only the North Atlantic Assembly — the interparliamentary body which Atlantic federalists did so much to establish, and in which Japan and Australia now participate as observers — provides the weak image of a possible federalist embryo in the sense in which Prof. Pistone has written on the need particularly for “a directly elected common parliament”. Unfortunately it as yet is purely interparliamentary, and bereft even of the consultative rights which the European Parliament had in its weakest inter-parliamentary days. The reinforcement of the North Atlantic Assembly, by the establishment of actual functions for it, the renewal of its internal political courage, and the addition of a directly elected element to it — and through it the reform of Atlantic and Trilateral relations from intergovernmental relations based on the people and democratic aggregation through parties rather than nations — is the indicated line for federative progress on this staircase.
The movement up the global staircase has been the slowest of all. Indeed, it might be said that, while in 1945 there were one or two major steps upward, in the next two years there was a step back down, leaving the UN in existence but as a formal shell. Since then there have been only small steps upward (and downward), and much shuffling around. The functionalist regimes of the UN system have shown the most potential. Even the Bretton Woods institutions are counted within this group, and while it cannot be said that they have progressed in recent decades, nevertheless their relative importance and effectiveness, derived from their close ties with the inter-democracy OECD core group and their sometimes use of weighted voting, suggests some of the reforms needed to enhance the UN’s relevance. In particular, the proposal for triad voting — requiring a majority of the world’s states, the world’s population and the world’s wealth for a resolution to pass — would give UN voting an immediately plausible and popularly comprehensible relation to most of the major interests in the world. It would thereby not only make the UN immediately more relevant, but would reveal the extent of world community that exists already or potentially in this period. On this ground, there would be fairer hope of proceeding with the functional and possibly even federal initiatives that would be needed to realize the existing potential for global community. Here too, however the weakness of federalist influence stands in the way: first in the way of getting such a major overhaul as triad voting would represent, then in the way of carrying through on the potential this would reveal for global community.
The weakness of federalist influence on these broader levels will be greatly ameliorated, possibly completely transformed by the establishment of a European federal government. Meanwhile it can already be ameliorated by the favorable attitude of European federalists toward the broader projects and their participation in them, not as their main task in this era, nor as a distraction from their main task of European federation, but as a supplement to that main task which helps provide a favorable context for it and guards against the pitfalls of sectarianism. In this regard, the turn of The Federalist toward timely, constructive regard for these broader questions of broader international integration is a cultural fact of potentially historic importance.
Relations Among the Staircases.
The relation between the steps on these several levels is complex and multifarious, but is in main part and on balance direct, in the sense that progress on each level tends to redound directly to the progress of all, rather than dialectical. Movement on any level can fill in when movement on the others has stalled, and provide inspiration for a relance. The faster movement in the narrower regions can provide inspiration, impetus and political and structural support for acceleration of movement on the slower, broader levels. Conversely, movement on the broader levels can provide context, inspiration and impetus for movement on the narrower levels. The latter has already happened: the first major steps toward European unification were Atlantic steps — the Marshall Plan, NATO — and the first institutional steps toward Atlantic unification were global steps — the League of Nations, the United Nations.
However, the narrower institutions have not yet been able to play a constructive active role within the broader institutions, because they remained plagued by a unit-veto intergovernmental system of decision-making which renders them inflexible and backward-looking. Indeed, in their explicit external diplomatic functions they have often played a negative role, as the EC has within GATT, or NATO within the context of East-West negotiations. This negative role is not enough to undo the positive good the EC and NATO do simply by being there. The situation of world trade would be much worse in the absence of the EC and the presence of trade wars, dictatorships and world wars growing out of Europe; the situation for East-West relations would be much worse if there were no Atlantic Alliance and the West remained rent, as it had been in the interwar period, by diplomatic, political and economic feuds and contradictory military preparations. But it does mean that the reform of the narrower institutions through a reliable system of majority rule — the mission of the federalists — has become their most pressing responsibility to the broader levels.
The “First Step” and the Sectarian Temptation.
It has been popular, among activists on each of the three levels, to write and argue that a preferred step on the activist’s preferred level is “the next step in history”, before which all other steps and actions in politics anywhere and everywhere are either impossible or worthless, but after which all else will become possible and will be realized in relatively short order. As Joseph Baratta has put it in his bibliography of international federalism, “World Federalists have argued that European federation could follow, but not precede, a world federation, which would provide the military security and economic coordination necessary for all regional federations… European unionists have claimed that their union was the key to world union.” In this standoff the World Federalists come out worse, since European integration has made some progress while world federation has stood still, but both arguments err in their exclusivity and their neglect of the valid points in the opposite argument. They have both — along with all isomorphic arguments — been superseded by history, since some steps have already been taken on all three levels.
The psychological use of such an argument is obvious in focusing the will, but the cost is excessive: a false perception of history, a distorted and implausible perspective on the present and the future, a musty monomaniacal style of analysis, an attitude toward other worthy initiatives that ranges from stand-offish to downright hostility, replete with self-fulfilling speculation on the failure of the other initiatives out of fear that they might confute the activist’s faith and dogmas. All this is more useful for sectarian consolidation of a declining movement than for building a growing movement. Surely the will can be focused by slightly more subtle conceptions, without the drawbacks of sectarianism and unpersuasiveness to outsiders!
The sectarian temptation is one to which all minorities are prone in circumstances of protracted waiting, especially minorities that have developed a political culture which stands head and shoulders — and several dialectical turns — above the ordinary political culture. Here the role of The Federalist, which is unmistakably the highest pinnacle of federalist culture in the world, is again of supreme importance. The Federalist promotes a Eurocentric focus of the will, and with several qualifications I agree with it in advocating this for European Federalists. The question follows to what extent The Federalist must promote a Eurocentric deformation of analysis. I would argue that this is little needed if at all. Fortunately the trend in The Federalist has been away from an exclusive or deformative Eurocentrism, and toward a more simply accurate assessment of the Eurocentric element in wider problems. European federation is a nodal point in the solution of many wider problems, and analysis of and action on those problems is, as The Federalist has often demonstrated, incomplete and self-deceiving if it proceeds without reference to the European nodal point; but it is not a nodal point in all of them, nor the main nodal point in many of them, nor the only nodal point in most of them, nor is its completion the prerequisite of any and all progress on the other nodal points, and analysis of and action on the broader problems would be no less incomplete and self-deceiving if it proceeded in an overwhelmingly Eurocentric way. Indeed, it is necessary to make progress on some of the wider nodal points in order to reinforce European unity, just as it is necessary to complete European integration in order to reinforce wider solutions. It is enough to be a vital nodal point, without fancying oneself to be the centre of the universe through which all else must pass directly. European federation is Europe’s first responsibility in the sense of her foremost responsibility in this era, but, given the unfortunate circumstance that it is caught up in an ahistorical gradualism and is not going to be completed overnight, its completion is not and cannot be Europe’s first task in the sense of her only responsibility in this era, nor the prior condition for beginning to face all her other responsibilities.
Ira Straus

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