political revue


Year XXXIII, 1991, Number 3 - Pagina 171




What is internationalism?*
1. Introduction.
All the great revolutionary movements, such as Liberal, Democratic, National and Socialist, since the end of the eighteenth century, in other words from the French Revolution onwards, have asserted new models of political life and have been characterized by a strong internationalist component. The word “internationalism” above all expresses the idea that it is impossible to think of the values of freedom, equality, national independence and social justice as principles valid for one country only and limited exclusively to the national area. The quality of universality is inherent in these values. As a result, their realization within the national ambit could only be seen as a necessary stage towards opening the way to their extension to Europe and the world.
2. The universal dimension of the French and Russian Revolutions.
With the French Revolution, international relations, which until then had been almost exclusively relations between kings and princes, assumed a new nature: they became relations between nations. In other words, the people became increasingly active on the international political scene.
In the fight against the dynastic principle, which was the foundation of absolute monarchies, the bourgeoisie was the standard-bearer of cosmopolitan and internationalist values.
Liberal-democratic internationalism proclaimed the universal nature of the values of freedom, equality and fraternity. The spirit of the Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizens was that of proclaiming universal principles, which would overcome all national allegiances. These principles, asserted through the French Revolution, were projected at a universal level and referred to nations, which, as they gradually rid themselves of the unjust and arbitrary government of monarchs, were to become the protagonists of international political life. All this placed the problems of international order under new terms and made possible the fraternization of all those people who had won democratic rights, and universal peace, as a result of the universal affirmation of the principle of popular sovereignty.
According to this type of internationalism, the affirmation of democracy in France would have started a process of transformation of international relations. The unification and pacification of the world would have been the result of an expanding movement around a revolutionary nucleus, represented by the first democratic state.
Socialist internationalism was founded on the affirmation of the universal nature of the values of social emancipation, the standard-bearer of which was the proletariat. It had its practical justification in the need to unify the struggle of workers in all countries against the worldwide organization of capitalism. The appeal: “Working men of all countries, unite!”, which ends The Communist Manifesto, the text which contains the first complete theoretic formulation of socialist internationalism, express this need.
According to Leninist theory, the Russian Revolution is but the first stage of a more general revolutionary process, caused by the crisis of the capitalist system and destined to spread to the whole world. It introduces into the world states system a principle of contradiction, which tends to radically transform it: by modifying the nature of the state, it also modifies the rules governing international relations.
In fact, according to the Marxist concept, wherever proletarian power replaces bourgeois rule, not only does the antagonism between classes disappear, but also that between states. Therefore the Soviet Union is the embryo of a universal socialist organization in which violence, as an instrument for solving international conflicts, would no longer have any reason to exist.
Thus, in those moments when the continuity of history has been interrupted by deep breaches of a revolutionary nature, such as the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution, together with the aspirations of emancipation from all forms of oppression within the state, the ideals of peace and universal solidarity have also appeared. However, these revolutions, as their titles reveal, took place in single countries, whereas revolution is a worldwide and universal concept. Having realized the principles of democratic and socialist rule, they became prisoners of the state they transformed. Consequently, the principles of freedom and equality have fallen into decline, because, in a world of independent and sovereign states fighting among themselves, they must be sacrificed, every time it becomes necessary, to raison d’Etat. However, the values of peace and solidarity between all men, which represent an essential component of revolutionary thought, have never disappeared from the underground current of history, and today, in a world where war has become so destructive as to threaten the very existence of mankind, their realization has become the condition for all progress.
3. The nature of internationalism.
When speaking of liberal, democratic and socialist internationalism, what is meant is a specific concept of international relations, of the causes of war and of the means to realize peace and international order, in other words a theory and practice both devoted to realizing international solidarity between peoples, parties, classes, and so on.
Liberal thought singles out the main cause for war in the aristocratic (for the political) and mercantilist (for the economic) structure of states. The introduction of representative governments and the development of international trade are consequently supposed to have quenched the war like inclinations of states. Concerning this, Benjamin Constant wrote: “It is clear that the more the commercial tendency dominates, the more the warlike tendency must weaken”.[1]
On the other hand, democratic thought ascribes wars to the authoritarian character of governments. Peace is the necessary consequence of the establishment of popular sovereignty. Thomas Paine, reflecting on the French Revolution, wrote on this subject: “Monarchic sovereignty, the enemy of mankind and the source of misery, is abolished; and the sovereignty itself is restored to its natural and original place, the Nation. Were this the case throughout Europe, the cause of wars would be taken away”.[2]
For the founders of the national movement, too, nation and humanity are not contradictory but complementary terms. For example, the Giovine Europa, established by Giuseppe Mazzini in 1834, is juxtaposed to the old Europe of the Holy Alliance, of conservatism, of privilege, of division and discord. The new Europe, born of the emancipation of nations, marked the beginning of a new historical phase during which human solidarity and the brotherhood of peoples was to develop, virtues that would allow all European peoples to collaborate in the progress of all mankind. “All collective work”, wrote Mazzini, “requires a division of work. The existence of nations is the consequence of this necessity. Every nation has a mission, a special office in collective work, a special aptitude for carrying out the office: this is its mark, its christening, its legitimacy. Every nation is a worker for humanity, it works for it, so that the common end is reached for the benefit of everyone: if the office is betrayed and distorted into selfishness, it declines and inevitably undergoes expiation, longer or shorter according to the degree of guilt”.[3]
Finally, socialist thought, developing these analyses, found in capitalism the ultimate cause for wars and linked the abolition of private ownership of the means of production to the social transformation which, by allowing the antagonism between classes to be overcome, was supposed to eliminate imperialism and wars. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels thus wrote in The Communist Manifesto, recalling the liberal concept: “National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto”. And they continued: “The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster. United action, of the leading civilized countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat. In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end”.[4]
In conclusion, it can be affirmed that, when the liberal, democratic, nationalist and socialist theorists thought of the future of international relations, they imagined that the peoples, after becoming masters of their own destiny, thanks to their liberation from monarchic and aristocratic rule or from bourgeois and capitalist rule, would no longer have any reasons for conflict.
After rapidly summarizing these four theories of international relations, it can be observed that they have some premises in common: they explain international policy through the same categories with which they explain domestic policy, attribute international tensions and wars exclusively to the nature of the internal structures of states and consider peace as an automatic and necessary consequence of the transformation of the internal structures (political and/or economic) of the states.
Internationalism is therefore a political concept which, from a theoretic point of view, does not attribute any autonomy to the international political system with respect to the internal structure of the single states, and to foreign policy with respect to domestic policy. Moreover, from a practical point of view, it considers that the struggle to achieve freedom, equality, national independence and social justice in the single states has precedence over the objectives of peace and international order.
If one wishes to achieve a historical understanding of the real foundations of such a widespread point of view, it becomes necessary to consider the structure and dynamics of the productive system and of the world system of states during the XIX and XX centuries. To our ends it is enough to define the more general aspects of the historical context in which the tendency to internationalism asserted itself.
4. The material foundations of internationalism: interdependence and world politics.
As far as the first aspect is concerned, in other words the identification of the material foundations of internationalism, it must be observed that the development of the industrial mode of production, in its initial phase, determined the extension to the national collectiveness of relations of production and exchange and of all those other aspects of social life which are directly or indirectly linked to them. Subsequently, social relations progressively extended beyond state boundaries, they made the individual societies in which mankind is divided come out of their former isolation and made every society increasingly dependent on others. Thus an economic and social system of worldwide dimensions was formed, the world market, on which all men depend to satisfy their requirements. The development of means of communication and transportation has brought peoples closer together and united our planet’s societies. Internationalist ideology undoubtedly reflects this process.
On the other hand, it must be considered that the real foundations of this process correspond to a phase of European history in which international political stability was not troubled by serious problems. From 1815 to 1914, in other words from the Vienna Congress to the First World War, Europe went through a period of exceptional international political stability, which Karl Polanyi has called “the hundred years’ peace”. He observes that, apart from the Crimean War, a more or less colonial event, England, France, Prussia, Austria, Italy and Russia were involved in wars with each other for only eighteen months.[5]
The formation and development of the world market is unthinkable without these political conditions. Great Britain played a decisive role in creating and maintaining these conditions. It was the first industrial country and had accumulated such an advantage over other states that it had a concrete interest in maintaining and developing the freedom of international exchanges, because it could play a predominant role on the world market. The political leadership of London, with the help of two instruments, one monetary and the other military, thus ensured the functioning of the world market. The first instrument was the international monetary system, founded on the hegemony of the pound pegged to the gold standard, the second was the supremacy of the British navy on the seas (the British navy’s gunboats were used to keep commercial routes to foreign countries open).
Thus it is easy to understand how the orderly development of the international political and economic system was not the result of a natural order, as the supporters of free exchange maintained, but of fortuitous circumstances that were historically transient. But it is also easily understood why the liberal, democratic, national and socialist ideologies have awarded a subordinate role to the problems of international order. They were formulated in an era in which historical movements placed the problem of transforming the internal structure of states high up on their agendas, while peace appeared to be a necessary consequence of those transformations. The prevailing political culture seemed therefore to give a satisfactory answer to the desire for peace, because international political and economic stability disguised the ideological aspects of internationalism. The outbreak of the First World War showed the complete inability of that point of view to foresee, understand and avoid that immense human catastrophe. And the European ruling class, which drew the inspiration for its actions from this point of view, proved to be unable to control the blind forces caused by the historical decadence of the European states system.
The limits of internationalism are the limits of traditional ideologies, which consider the struggle to assert themselves at a national level sufficient to achieve their political objectives. Basing their interpretation of social reality on the need to defend the interests of a nation or a class, in the end they became prisoners of schemes of national culture, which explains international politics in terms of the “pre-eminence of domestic policy”.
One of the most widespread theoretic expressions of this viewpoint in our time is the economic interpretation of war, which has found its canonical formulation in Lenin’s pamphlet on imperialism, that states that “imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism”.[6] This theory is but one example of various unilateral explanations of international politics, an attempt to get to know the states system starting from the study of a single aspect of social reality, such as man (explanations of a psychological and biological nature, focusing on the decisive factor of aggressiveness) or the structure of single states (explanations of a political nature, which favour the analysis of the structure of a political regime, for example the authoritarianism of monarchies).
Concerning the economic interpretation of war, Lord Lothian has observed: “The division of the world into sovereign states long antedated modern capitalism. Capitalism does not cause war inside the state. Nor would it produce war inside a federation of nations. It is the division of humanity into sovereign states which disturbs the pacific functioning of capitalism as international force and causes war, not capitalism which is the cause of the division of the world into an anarchy of sovereign states”.[7]
The point of view on which these considerations is based is that of the theory of raison d’Etat, which dates back to Machiavelli and inspires some of the present day scholars of international relations, such as Hans Morgenthau, Raymond Aron and Kenneth Waltz. The basic concept of this theory is that, because of the division of humanity into sovereign states, that do not recognize any superior power, the world is ruled by war and force. As a result, security comes first among the priorities a government has to choose from and for its sake, if necessary, the principles of morality and law should be sacrificed.
There are, however, two different interpretations of raison d’Etat: the nationalist which conceives of the division of humanity into sovereign states as an eternal datum, and the federalist one, which considers this reality historically transient. The latter is interesting because it tends to eliminate force from international politics, gradually overcoming the anarchy of the national sovereignties and founding the security of states not on armed forces, but on a federal government able to resolve conflicts between states on a legal basis.
As far as this is concerned, it must be pointed out that during the First World War there were some who, although they belonged to the social-communist (Leon Trotsky) or liberal-democratic (Luigi Einaudi) tradition, tried to learn from the new and unforeseen events which marked a turning-point in the course of history. A new idea, in fact, began to assert itself, which attributed to the crisis of the nation-state, the responsibility for the War and pointed to a precise alternative: the United States of Europe, meant as a step towards the unification of the world. In other words, war is interpreted as the consequence of the contradiction between the internationalization of the productive process and the division of the world into conflicting sovereign states. Einaudi defined the world war as “the bloody struggle to elaborate a political form of a superior order” to the nation-states,[8] and Trotsky as the revolt of the productive forces developed by capitalism against their usage by the nation-state.[9]
All this shows that there is a negative aspect of technological development: every conflict threatens to spread to the whole world. World wars are the negative expression of the historical trend towards the unification of Europe and the world. The absolute nature of war in the industrial age shows that men have acquired the power to destroy the world, but not yet the power to rule it. This depends on the fact that the world is organized in independent and sovereign states which, at the time of their formation and for prior centuries, represented a principle of order in the chaos of politics, but that now no longer corresponds to the new situation of a world that is growing more tightly interdependent.
The development of interdependence has made relations between states closer and has increased the need to regulate the problems of economic, monetary, energy, social, environmental, cultural, and other policies at an international level. On this basis the world states system was formed, which has given world politics a global dimension. The traditional method of diplomacy has proved inadequate in regulating matters which have increasingly assumed the nature of problems of government.
At this point it is appropriate to examine the norms and institutions that internationalism has elaborated so as to guarantee international peace and order: international law and international organizations, the creation of an international free-trade order and the organization of international political movements, such as the workers’ Internationals.
5. International law and international organizations.
The foundation of international law lies in the fact that states, not being isolated entities, are driven to regulate both government activities and non-governmental activities which take place at the international level. However, while within the individual states, when someone resorts to force others can appeal to the public authorities to inflict sanctions, in an international political framework, in the absence of a court and police force, every state is inclined to take the law into its own hands. In an anarchic society, such as the international one, in which states have not renounced their right to self-protection, the role played by international law is problematic. It has been defined by Hans Kelsen as “a primitive law”, that can be understood only “if we distinguish – as does primitive man – between killing as a delict and killing as a sanction”. Kelsen, in other words, affirms that the juridical nature of international law “depends upon whether it is possible ... to assume ... that ... war is in principle forbidden, being permitted only as a sanction, i.e. as a reaction against a delict”.[10]
On the other hand, the supporters of the imperial concept of law object that, as international law is founded on the principle pacta sunt servanda rebus sic stantibus, it is the individual states that decide when a change has taken place that justifies a modification of treaties. More generally, they affirm that, in the absence of a central organ with the power to apply the rules of international law, the single states are free to conform or not, at their will, to those rules. And it is obvious that, when agreement is lacking, the road is open to a recourse to force. As Kant observed, international law “presupposes the existence of many separate, independent adjoining nations”, which is “in itself a state of war”. The battlefield is therefore the tribunal in which ultimately conflicts between states are resolved, but victory conquered with the force of arms, as Kant writes, “cannot determine the right, and although a treaty of peace can put an end to some particular war, it cannot end the state of war (the tendency always to find a new pretext for war)”.[11]
The same limitation also belongs to the international organizations which, starting with the League of Nations, have tried to force states into a peaceful solution of conflicts. When the First World War revealed that the organization of Europe was radically incompatible with the development of productive forces and with international order, the problem of giving a juridical-institutional framework to international relations had to be faced and the League of Nations was established. The latter, as the UN was to be later, was the expression of an awareness and a need which are in part connected to federalist thought: that the problem of peace cannot be solved through the transformation of the political regime or of the productive system of the individual states and that it is therefore necessary to create specific instruments of international organization.
The League of Nations arose as a kind of “World Parliament” or “International of Nations” and its establishment seemed to represent the definite triumph of democratic ideas. However, the national principle multiplied the number of states, determining, at the time of the First World War, the collapse of multinational empires and the balkanization of Europe and, after the Second World War, the balkanization of the Third World following the disintegration of colonial empires. Historical experience has shown that democracy, choked into excessively restricted spaces, is bound to suffocate and that the generalization of the national principle tends to aggravate international anarchy, which neither the L/N nor the UN have been able to hold in check. In fact, at the basis of the pact establishing the L/N, and also of the UN charter, there is the principle of the inviolability of national sovereignties, which does not admit any limitation to the exercise of states’ sovereignty. Consequently, important decisions are made unanimously and the right of veto protects the individual states from those acts that threaten their sovereignty. These are essentially diplomatic mechanisms, not constitutional instruments governing international relations. This is demonstrated by the fact that the only means available to these organizations for stopping an assailant state and enforcing international law is the threat, or the actual use, of force. In other words, in order to guarantee peace they are obliged to resort to war.
Lord Lothian, trying to give an overall evaluation of the nature and limits of the L/N (but his judgement can be extended to the UN), wrote: “The League cannot be made to perform the functions of a world state. It cannot end war altogether ... If the League is to succeed as an intermediate system it will be because its members are resolved that grievances can be remedied and treaties reformed by its collective procedure, that they can rely upon one another for security against aggression unless there has first been resort to that procedure, and that if war does break out over some dispute which will not yield to pacific methods it can be localized and prevented from leading to a world war”.[12]
On the other hand, as pointed out by Stanley Hoffmann, another author who has dedicated an important part of his work to studying “intermediate systems”, there also exist a close link between the “solidity and authority” of the norms of international law, on the one hand, and the “stability” of the system of international relations on the other. In terms similar to those of Lothian he remarks that “if we look at the relations between states, we see a broad gamut of situations in between the status of the mythical state-in-isolation ... and the situation of a member state in a federation”. And he proposes as an example of a stable system the European concert. “In a stable system, such as the nineteenth century’s”, he writes, “sovereignty is a fairly clear nexus of powers with sharp edges: the world appears as a juxtaposition of well-defined units, whose respective rights are neatly delimited, which allow few exceptions to the principle of full territorial jurisdiction, and which have few institutional links among them: co-operation is organized by diplomacy and by the market”.[13]
Likewise, within international organizations a wide range of situations can be distinguished, ranging from the loosest kind of institution, such as the L/N, whose task is simply to favour the solution of conflicts between states, to those institutions governing a process of economic integration and political unification, such as the European Community in its present form.
As far as the European Community in particular is concerned, it shows that economic integration (the formation of a standardized economic space) and political unification (the creation of supranational political structures, such as the European Parliament elected by universal suffrage) are founded on two structural conditions. The first is economic and social interdependence between nations. The second is the elimination of military antagonisms between states.
It is obvious that the premise of the economic integration process is the disappearance of war as a means of solving international conflicts. It is true that, according to the federalist point of view (from Kant to Lord Lothian), peace can be guaranteed only through federation. However, a “security community” can be considered only as the fundamental condition of any integration process. This expression, coined by Richard Van Wagenen, is one of the key concepts of a comparative study of sixteen historical cases of political unification in the North Atlantic area. A “security community” is defined as an area “in which there is a real assurance that the members of that community will not fight each other physically, but will settle their disputes in some other way”.[14]
This concept can be usefully employed to interpret the European integration process. In actual fact, the latter has caused a complete change as far as the expectations of war are concerned. Power politics has disappeared, determining a deep alteration in the relations between states. Cooperation has replaced antagonism as the main trend in the foreign policy of European Community member states.
This phenomenon has started to reveal itself at a global level. On the one hand, interdependence reflects objective needs, which are vital for the survival of mankind: security concerning the nuclear threat, the protection of the environment and the overcoming of underdevelopment in Third World countries. Even the superpowers have become unable to solve these global problems, which require a high level of co-operation. On the other hand, disarmament is replacing the arms race, because the United States and the Soviet Union can no longer sustain the cost of the arms race and of military confrontation. Consequently, they are forced to co-operate. “To unite or to perish”, the formula used by Aristide Briand with reference to the European states during the period between the two wars, is now suitable for the two superpowers and is destined to become the guiding theme of the world unification process, in the context of the transformation of the UN into a world government. It is not by chance that those who, like Mikhail Gorbachev, have tried to formulate a “new political thinking” suitable to the new problems of our time, affirm the priority of the objective of the “survival of humanity”, the re-organization of international relations on the basis of the principles of “mutual security” and of “non-offensive defence”, the reinforcement of the UN and the creation of a new European-Russian-American organization, the “European Common Home”.[15]
6. The international free-trade order.
According to liberal thought, the state must reduce to the bare minimum its intervention in economic relations, in order to favour individual interests and to ensure their harmonious operation in society. The same principle must stand for state intervention in international trade and the achievement of mankind’s prosperity and peace between peoples. We have already pointed out the limits of this point of view, which does not take into account the political influences on international trade, for example the role of the naval and commercial hegemony of Great Britain, that ensured the unity of the world market in the XIX century or of the corresponding role of the United States in the XX century. People always forget that it was the great Liberals themselves (in the first place Lionel Robbins) who demonstrated the need for the existence of a state and of a real and true “liberal plan” for the existence of a truly competitive market, in which resources are employed and distributed in the most advantageous way. Robbins, criticized all who thought the free market is something which arises spontaneously, remarking that it is instead an institution requiring an apparatus for maintaining law and order. But whereas within national areas such “an apparatus, however imperfect, existed, between national areas there was no apparatus at all”. From here he highlights the contradiction of those liberals who “within the national areas they relied upon the coercive power of the state to provide the restraints which harmonized the interests of the different individuals. Between the areas they relied only upon demonstration of common interest and the futility of violence: their outlook here, that is to say, was implicitly not liberal but anarchist”.[16]
In actual fact, market laws do not operate without a coercive force that offers everyone a legal guarantee and uniform juridical and administrative regulations, which direct economic activity within legal limits.
Consequently, in a world of sovereign states, political preoccupations of a defensive and offensive nature tend to prevail over those of a strictly economic nature relative to a more productive use of resources. Thus productive resources tend to be organized taking into account more the state’s requirement of security than the objective of citizens’ welfare. This is the interpretative framework that helps to explain the protectionism and economic nationalism, which spread infectiously to all the industrialized world at the time of the world wars. Once the historic phase of the naval and commercial hegemony of Great Britain (which had ensured the unity of the world market) was over, international anarchy worsened and the need for economic self-sufficiency, which was essential to guarantee the independence of the individual states in time of war, became increasingly urgent. Protectionism was the instrument that the nation-states used to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Thus, unlike the explanations inspired by Marxism, which attribute protectionism to the monopolistic structure of the economic system, for Robbins the ultimate cause of protectionism is international anarchy.
For example, the availability of raw materials, in conditions of peace, is merely a function of the price. But as international relations are dominated by war or the threat to resort to it, the fight to control raw materials, from which no state wants to be excluded, becomes a reason for international conflicts. The race to share out the colonies at the end of the last century clearly shows how this mechanism operated. But the political context which makes it active is the organization of the world into sovereign states. Therefore, according to Robbins, the re-organization in the federal sense of international relations would make it possible to submit it to democratic control, thereby eliminating the factor which transforms economic conflicts into military conflicts.
The fact is, that “there is world economy, [but] there is no world policy”. As a result, the control of the economy, be it of a liberal or socialist nature, is possible only at the national level. Thus, Robbins observes, “international liberalism is not a plan that has been tried and failed. It is a plan which has never been carried through”.[17]
Of course, the development of economic relations in the world market is conditioned by the distribution of political power within the world system of states. This means that, between international anarchy and world federation there are intermediate situations, such as that characterized by the hegemony of one state, the consequences of which on the international market have been widely illustrated. Particularly interesting is the situation characterized by the convergence of the raisons d’Etat of a group of states, which is favourable to the development of an integration process.
7. The workers’ Internationals.
In contemporary society there has been a proliferation of nongovernmental organizations which operate at the international level. This is one of the more striking consequences of the ever closer interdependence between states. To study these subjects, an adequate theory is required. Many experts on these organizations support a thesis according to which the development of these phenomena proves that the state is no longer the main actor in international politics.
However, as Kenneth Waltz has asserted, this theory, to be reliable, would have to prove that “the non-state actors develop to the point of rivaling or surpassing the great powers, not just a few of the minor ones. They show no sign of doing that”.[18] The experience of the workers’ Internationals and of multinational companies has shown that these organizations are subordinate to the power system in which they operate (the world states system), which sets up the rules the non-governmental organizations follow. And it should be emphasized that the latter have a limited degree of political autonomy at the international level.
Particularly significant from this point of view are the vicissitudes of the workers’ Internationals. At the decisive moment of war, national solidarity has always prevailed on the ties which unite the working classes of the world. The Franco-Prussian war was the event that determined this prevailing tendency, spread nationalist sentiments within the conflicting nations and mortally wounded the First International. The First World War represents the factor which destroyed the alliance between the working classes within the Second International and determined the alliance of the working classes of the individual states with the bourgeoisie of their own country against the proletariat of other countries.
And once again war (the Second World War) is the element that explains the dissolution of the Third International. The Soviet Union’s alliance with the most powerful countries of the Western world required the end of what presented itself as an organ of world revolution, in the name of collaboration imposed by the need to defeat Nazi Germany and its allies. The survival of the Comintern had therefore become incompatible with the objectives imposed by the raison d’Etat of the Soviet Union.
These vicissitudes of the workers’ Internationals permit the illustration of an often unobserved relation between internationalism and international anarchy. The impotence of the Internationals in the face of war was not simply a casual episode, but the expression of a structural tendency. International relations are dominated by a mechanism which irresistibly tends to reproduce, especially in the stages of the most acute crisis in the international political system, such as war, the phenomenon of the international division of the workers’ movement and the prevailing of national solidarity, even among opposing classes, over international class solidarity. “International socialism cannot stand up against international anarchy” Barbara Wootton wrote, commenting on the failure of the Second International. “The claims of national security, if not of rampant nationalism, are too strong. As long as there is no machinery other than war to deal with political gangsters, the socialist is faced with an intolerable dilemma. Either he must take up arms against his comrades, or he must lie down before aggression. He has generally chosen the former alternative. And socialism as an international movement is in ruins”. Wootton’s conclusion was that, if international Socialism is obliged to bow to international anarchy, it can assert itself only within the framework of a state: “Experience has shown that it is possible to build Trade Unions that are capable of concerted action over vast geographical areas, provided that they do not extend beyond the boundaries of independent states”.[19]
This interpretation allows us to identify the reasons for the failure of socialist internationalism, as of any other form of internationalism, in the objective structure of the international political system. The organization of political power, of the fight between parties and social forces, of the consensus of citizens in the national framework, in other words the inertia of national institutions, has prevented opening up to the people’ and workers’ control the mechanisms of an international society hitherto abandoned to the diplomatic and military clash between states and not regulated by laws. The democratic procedures for the formation of political decisions and organization of the masses still halts at states’ boundaries. Individuals, either singularly or organized into parties or trade unions, do not dispose of any instrument of political action beyond the national boundaries except for the summit procedures of foreign policy. Even nowadays the institutions through which democratic participation takes place are allowed to act only within individual countries. Consequently, only if a solution is found to the problem which is neglected by internationalism, that of destroying or at least limiting exclusive national sovereignty, the ultimate cause of power politics and war, will it become possible to submit international politics to the same rules as domestic politics obey.
On the other hand, as Robert Michels has observed, it is not possible to fight against war with organizations, such as parties, which are subordinated to the state. Examining the reasons for the failure of the Second International, he wrote: “The forces of party, however well developed, are altogether inferior and subordinate to the forces of the government, and this is especially true in such a country as Germany. Consequently one of the cardinal rules governing the policy of the Socialist Party is never to push its attacks upon the government beyond the limits imposed by the inequality between the respective forces of the combatants. In other words, the life of the party, whose preservation has gradually become the supreme objective of the parties of political action, must not be endangered. The result is that the external form of the party, its bureaucratic organization, definitively gains the upper hand over its soul, its doctrinal and theoretic content, and the latter is sacrificed whenever it tends to involve an inopportune conflict with the enemy. The outcome of this regressive evolution is that the party is no longer regarded as a means for the attainment of an end, but gradually becomes an end-in-itself, and is therefore incapable of resisting the arbitrary exercise of power by the state when this power is inspired by a vigorous will. Inevitably such a party is unable to sustain so terrible a test as that of upholding its faith in principles when the state, determined upon war, and resolved to crush anyone who gets in the way, threatens the party in case of disobedience with the dissolution of its branches, the sequestration of its funds, and the slaughter of its best men. The party gives way, hastily sells its internationalist soul, and, impelled by the instinct of self-preservation, undergoes transformation into a patriotic party”.[20]
In conclusion, when the security of the state is endangered and the spring of military mobilization has been released, it is an illusion to think one can impose a different political attitude on governments, by resorting to instruments of action which are not of a military nature, such as a general strike. Besides, both Marx and Lenin strongly criticized the strategy of a general strike against war, because they considered it ineffective. On the contrary, they thought the occasion of war should be used to develop revolutionary strategy. War, by endangering the very existence of the state, has always been conceived of by revolutionaries as an event able to determine the collapse of the power apparatus of the state and to prepare the way for a change of regime. Lenin specified this point of view with the formula of the “transformation of imperialist war into civil war”, an enterprise which was successful in Russia with the October Revolution.
Another limitation of using a general strike against war consists of the fact that it would have ended up by favouring states with an authoritarian regime, like Russia, in which the right to go on strike was not acknowledged, and would only have damaged democratic states.
On the other hand, it cannot be affirmed that the causes of the failure of the Second International lie in the institutional weakness of this organization, as George Haupt seems to think. In a work in which he examined the history of the Socialist International on the eve of the Second World War, he identifies the structural limits of this organization with the complete autonomy of the member parties, which made it extremely difficult to “implement the decisions and control their application” and did not allow the deep political and ideological divisions that had emerged within it to be overcome.[21] However, on the basis of the interpretation suggested here, it seems logical to conclude that this factor has had a marginal role. Not even a supranational structure, in fact, would have been able to operate effectively against the war and would have been obliged to submit to the logic of force, which dominates international politics. On the other hand, considering the relative autonomy possessed by the organizational structures of the parties and political movements on the international level, it must be underlined that a structure of a supranational nature is more effective the further away the prospect of war is, and the stronger the co-operation between states.
A second factor, of an internal nature, which has favoured the prevalence of nationalism over internationalism has been the national integration of the popular masses. In Western Europe between 1870 and 1914 new social classes (first the middle class, then the working class) were able to enter progressively into national political life. This took place due to two successive processes, that Edward Carr called “democratization of the nation”, in other words the participation of the people in political decision-making, and “socialization of the nation”, in other words social reforms.
The second process is particularly significant to an understanding of the failure of socialist internationalism. As Carr observes, “the defence of wages and employment becomes a concern of national policy and must be asserted, if necessary, against the national policies of other countries; and this in turn gives the worker an intimate practical interest in the policy and power of his nation”. And he concludes: “The socialization of the nation has as its natural corollary the nationalization of socialism”.[22]
It was not therefore a matter of the betrayal of the working class and of the opportunism of the workers’ aristocracies, according to the interpretation Lenin tried to win acceptance of. Factors of a political and institutional nature played a predominant role in determining the failure of socialist internationalism. In other terms, the fidelity of the working class to the nation was the reward of social policy in the nation-states. This was the determinant factor of the national integration of the workers’ movement and of the alliance between nationalism and socialism. These elements concur to explain the decision of socialist parties to vote war credits and to support their national governments, which was the starting point of the dissolution of the First and Second Internationals. A military defeat would in fact have threatened the living conditions and positions of power that the workers’ movements had acquired in their respective nation-states. “In the 19th century”, Carr wrote, “when the nation belonged to the middle class and the worker had no fatherland, socialism had been international. The crisis of 1914 showed in a flash that, except in backward Russia, this attitude was everywhere obsolete. The mass of the workers knew instinctively on which side their bread was buttered; and Lenin was a lone voice proclaiming the defeat of his own country as a socialist aim and crying treason against the ‘social-chauvinists’. International socialism ignominiously collapsed. Lenin’s desperate rearguard action to revive it made sense only in Russia, and there only so long as revolutionary conditions persisted. Once the workers’ state was effectively established, ‘socialism in one country’ was the logical corollary. The subsequent history of Russia and the tragi-comedy of the Communist International are an eloquent tribute to the solidarity of the alliance between nationalism and socialism”.[23]
8. Federalism and overcoming the limitations of internationalism.
The analysis of the values, the historical and social conditions, and the institutions of internationalism, has already shown the limitations of this viewpoint. It is now a matter of drawing some conclusions.
The limitation of internationalism consists in neglecting the autonomy possessed by state structures due to the division of mankind into sovereign states, and the obstacle they represent to achieving real solidarity between peoples. In fact, there is an irremediable contradiction between the aspiration to independence and equality of all peoples, and their political division. Division transforms peoples into armed and hostile groups and makes it precarious, and in the long run impossible, for them to coexist peacefully. The unequal distribution of political power between states determines hegemonic and imperialist relations on the part of the stronger states with regard to the weaker ones.
The prevalent political culture of liberal, democratic, national and socialist inspiration chose as its exclusive area of commitment the effort to change the form of regime in existing states, but considered nation-states as natural, and therefore the only possible framework, for political strife. Nationalism, in other words the priority accorded to the national level, does not often appear in its true aspect, but with the mask of internationalism, precisely to hide its contradiction with the universal principles of freedom, equality and solidarity.
As Emery Reves has written, internationalism “does not and never has opposed nationalism and the evil effects of the nation-state structure”.[24] In other words, internationalism passively assimilates the principle of unlimited national sovereignty, with all that follows (international anarchy and relations of force between nations), but does not consider the problem of modifying this form of relation between peoples and states. It accepts the anti-democratic premises of nationalism and of the diplomatic-intergovernmental approach, which keeps the people out of international politics and is not willing to sacrifice national interests in favour of international co-operation. Basically, it represent the utopia of pacific relations between sovereign states. In conclusion, it is simply a variation of the concept of the natural harmony of interests, applied to international relations.
As long as the world is organized according to the principle of national sovereignty, international politics will be ruled by relations of force between states. As a result, to defend state security, governments will tend to sacrifice, if necessary, the principles of law and morality.
To eliminate force from international relations, it is necessary to overcome the anarchy of national sovereignties and base state security not on armies, but on a worldwide federal government, able to solve conflicts within a legal framework. Federalism, by identifying the ultimate cause of war in the division of mankind into sovereign states, and the instrument for achieving peace in a worldwide government, allows two different situations in which humanity can find itself to be considered clearly: international anarchy, in which international politics is the undesired and unforeseen result of the clash between national policies, and worldwide government, which has the power to decide world politics, which thus becomes a product of human will.
The federation is the only form of power organization that allows international anarchy to be overcome and relations of force between states to be eliminated. As Immanuel Kant wrote, peace is not merely the situation in which one war is ended, but in which it become possible “to end all wars forever”.[25] Within this order, he specified, “every nation, even the smallest, can expect to have security and rights, not by virtue of its own might or its own declaration regarding what is right, but from this great federation of peoples (Foedus Amphictyonum) alone, from a united might and from decisions made by the united will in accord with laws”.[26]
However remote this objective may seem, the actual evolution of history seems to move in this direction. The direct election of the European Parliament has started the first experiment of international democracy. Certainly, it is an incomplete experiment, which is still waiting for the European people to be acknowledged, together with the power to elect their own representatives, as well as that of deciding who governs the European Community and controls the government programme. However, the extension of democratic participation (which in the past had stopped at the boundaries of states) from the national to the international sphere, represents the prerequisite for achieving popular control of that sector of political life which had previously been the exclusive dominion of the raison d’Etat and therefore of the diplomatic and military clash between states. The European election has thus opened up the first breach in the bastion of the raison d’Etat, against which the waves of internationalism used to break. All this shows that the federal unification of Europe marks an important stage in history: the overcoming of the formula of the nation-state (expression of the deepest political division and of the strongest centralization of power modern history has ever known) in order to solve the problems of increasing interdependence between states and to allow mankind to start marching towards the organization of peace throughout the whole planet.

[1] B. Constant, De l’esprit de conquête, (1814), Oeuvres, Paris, 1957, p. 94.
[2] T. Paine. Rights of Man. (1791), in The Writings of Thomas Paine, New York, Burt Franklin, 1969, vol. II, p. 387.
[3] G. Mazzini, La réforme intellectuelle et morale d’Ernest Renan, “Roma del Popolo”, 7th March 1872, in Scritti editi ed inediti, Imola, Cooperativa Galeati, 1941, vol. XCIII, pp. 260-261.
[4] K. Marx, F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848), Harmondsworth - New York, Penguin Books,1967, p. 102.
[5] K. Polanyi, The Great Transformation, New York, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1944.
[6] V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), in S.T. Possony (ed.). Lenin Reader, Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1966, p. 295.
[7] Lord Lothian, Pacifism Is Not Enough (1935), London - New York, Lothian Foundation Press, 1990, p. 226.
[8] L. Einaudi, La guerra e l’unità europea, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1986, p. 27.
[9] L. Trotskij, The Bolsheviki and World Peace, New York, Boni and Liveright, 1918.
[10] H. Kelsen, General Theory of Law and State, Cambridge Mass., Harvard University Press, 1949, pp. 339 and 340.
[11] I. Kant, Perpetual Peace (1795), in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company, 1983, pp. 124-125 and p. 116.
[12] Lord Lothian, Opt cit., p. 252.
[13] S. Hoffmann, International Systems and International Law, in K. Knorr, S. Verba (ed.), The International System: Theoretical Essays, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1961, pp. 235-236.
[14] Center for Research on World Political Institutions, Political Community and the North Atlantic Area, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1968. p. 5.
[15] M. Gorbachev. Perestroika (1987). New York, Harper & Row, 1987.
[16] L. Robbins, Economic Planning and International Order, London. MacMillan, 1937, p. 241.
[17] L. Robbins, Opt cit., p. 239 and p. 238.
[18] K.N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1979, p. 95.
[19] B. Wootton, Socialism and Federation, in P. Ransome (ed.), Studies in Federal Planning, London, New York, Lothian Foundation Press, 1990, 2nd edition, pp. 277 and 289.
[20] R. Michels, Political Parties, New York, Collier Books, 1962, p. 358.
[21] G. Haupt, Le Congrès manqué, Paris, Maspéro, 1965, p. 25.
[22] E.B. Carr, Nationalism and After (1945), London, MacMillan, 1968, p. 19.
[23] E.H. Carr, op. cit., pp. 33-34.
[24] E. Reves, The Anatomy of Peace (1945), Harmondsworth - New York, Penguin Books, 1947, pp. 154-155.
[25] I. Kant, Op. cit., p. 117.
[26] I. Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent (1784), in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, cit. pp. 34-35.



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