political revue


Year XXXIII, 1991, Number 3 - Pagina 192




The Ventotene Manifesto in the Era of World Unification*
A new era in world politics?
Until now the history of the world has coincided with that of the peoples who have dominated the world. Humanity as a pluralistic people of nations has never had the chance to act as an active and self-conscious subject. Mankind is bound by an infinite number of constraints. Thousands of millions of individuals are born, live and die without being able to exercise the slightest influence, either on their personal destiny, or on that of the community they live in. Mankind can only hope to be self-governing through collective action, uniting the will of fellow-citizens. Politics is the one field of human activity in which a collective will can emerge and in which man can develop conscious action, even though the dominance of interests, of necessity and of conservatism are not easy to overcome. For this reason, those moments when freedom manifests itself in history are preceded by long periods of incubation in which conscious minorities live the spirit of the new times, tirelessly criticizing the old, decaying institutions, and fighting to establish a new order.
In contemporary history an exceptional situation is coming about, in which the entire world system of power may be radically reconsidered. In other words, the possibility is emerging that world history may at last see mankind itself become an active subject in world politics. We are at the beginning of a period of struggle whose end-result might be the self-government of the people of the world: in short, international democracy. This is an opportunity for the present-day youth who will reach maturity in the next millennium. In the last few years, in fact, there has been a rapid succession of such revolutionary events that it has seemed appropriate to speak of a new era in international politics. This is no more than an intuition. The nature, character and potential of the new era are for the most part not yet understood. And yet this is the crucial task for any political force that wants to be an active subject in building the new world. If out of these opportunities for change there does not emerge, in the near future, a strong policy supported by a growing commitment of public opinion, it is indeed not impossible that the dark forces of conservatism should impose a long period of stagnation and anarchy. Progress in history is possible, but only if it is actively sought.
Europe and the world after the Cold War.
The first change to be taken account of is the end of the Cold War, i.e. of an international balance of power which came out of the Second World War, in which the two superpowers maintained a strict leadership over their respective allies by means of the military and ideological confrontation with the opposing empire. There had been phases of detente in the past, but these had never led to more than a momentary truce in the race for world supremacy. The new detente unequivocally signals the end of the age of opposing blocs. This is not simply due to the goodwill of a politician, although the determination and courage demonstrated by the Soviet leader Gorbachev must be included among the factors which opened the way for this new cycle in international politics. No great world power unilaterally gives up a dominant role unless it is forced to by objective constraints. Detente between the USSR and the USA has gone so far as to bring down the Iron Curtain in Europe, putting an end to CMEA and the Warsaw Pact and relaunching on a wider scale the co-operation for disarmament and economic development within the CSCE. The explanation is therefore to be sought in deep and remote causes, which have eroded the very foundations on which the great world empires were built. The Cold War was based pre-eminently on security, which had to be guaranteed with regard to the enemy and which only the war arsenal of a superpower could ensure. But some holes appeared within the logic of the Cold War, and it was through these that the forces of change infiltrated. The ideological contest in defence of the values of democracy and socialism, while it ensured maximum cohesion between the superpowers and their allies, allowed the beginning of the first forms of international economic integration. In fact, both in the empire of the East as in that of the West, from the fifties onwards relative socio-economic development has been apparent, even though by different means and to differing degrees. While the choice of the Common Market in Western Europe has proved crucial in promoting the European economic miracle, the choice of CMEA soon revealed its limits because of the impossibility of developing an international market among centrally-planned economies. Nevertheless the basic contradiction between the tendency towards a global dimension of the modern productive process, and the national dimension into which political life is coerced, began to make itself felt. The USA and the USSR had to acknowledge the absurdity of maintaining a rigid opposition between the two empires against a myriad of forces operating ever more vigorously to overcome every geographic, economic, cultural and political division.
It is thus paradoxically in the very success of the Cold War that the reasons for its decline can be perceived. The development of productive forces of technology and the world market imposed ever growing costs on maintaining the old imperial orders. Economic well-being spread rapidly without making distinctions between allies and ruling power, causing a relative decline of the USA and USSR. For example, the US economy, which in the period immediately following the Second World War produced around half the world’s industrial production, by the end of the eighties only made 20 per cent. The leadership of the two superpowers was thus increasingly based on the military factor and on the accumulation of the greatest potential in destructive technology. The USSR was the first to recognize the necessity of reversing the march towards the conquest of an improbable and absurd world supremacy. The diseased state of the controlled economy and the glaring failures in the Soviet policy of military domination in Europe and Asia made perestroika inevitable. The United States was thus faced with the opportunity of accepting a reasonable prospect of disarmament and detente, and renouncing a ruinously expensive nuclear arms race that was not only useless (because by then the capacity to destroy the opponent had been reached many times over), but was the cause of increasing breakdowns in the economic system, adding to the public deficit and reducing the competitiveness of the American economy in the world market.
International detente however is not only the fruit of the foreign policy of the two superpowers. The European Community played a decisive contributory role. The historic role of the European Community can be better understood in the light of the situation of national division and anarchy which manifested itself immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall: the countries of Eastern Europe resurrected, with few changes, the old nationalistic conflicts which the Treaty of Versailles had failed to appease. The Community on the other hand has succeeded in orienting the entire foreign policy of western countries towards peace and intergovernmental co-operation, based on a common international legislation and common institutions. This was possible because the European Community, from its foundation in 1950 on the initiative of Jean Monnet, considered “European Federation” as its final goal, to be achieved by a series of successive stages. In this way, certain institutions were created immediately, such as the High Authority of the ECSC (later the European Commission) and the European Parliament. These institutions, even though lacking real power, allowed the federalist movement to fight for their reinforcement and placed a serious obstacle in the way of nationalistic forces. In the most difficult moments, the latter, if they had won the upper hand, could have sparked a crisis in the first experiment in supranational integration.
This process of intra-community pacification had a profound effect on international political reality. The European Community’s powerful economic growth acted as a catalyst, firstly on the EFTA countries (Great Britain, Austria etc.) and then on those of the Mediterranean area, on the European side (Spain, Portugal and Greece), on the African (Morocco) and on the Asian (Turkey). Moreover, the Community was able to achieve the first effective agreement on multilateral co-operation for development with the South, thanks to the Lomé Convention. Apart from factors concerning economic and civil life, the European peace process could not but have repercussions for relations between opposing military blocs, because of its absolute incompatibility with the spirit and practice of the Cold War. With the passing years, and with the consolidation of the European presence on the international scene, it became increasingly obvious that Europeans’ security, both of the East and of the West, could not be based on the continuous accumulation of atomic warheads on European soil. There was a progressive erosion of the solidarity between the European allies and their respective superpowers, which were forced at a certain point to acknowledge the impossibility of basing their alliance solely on military supremacy.
Thus, thanks to Soviet perestroika, the possibility opened up of launching the project of a great “European Common Home”, in which the common security of all participating countries could be guaranteed without military alliances. This in fact was the end of the politics of military blocs and of the Cold War. The image of the enemy has disappeared from the scene of world politics, as disarmament and economic development have replaced the politics of the arms race and of commercial discrimination.
These are the premises of the new era of international politics. A long political cycle has closed, but there remain active forces which could equally interrupt the world’s difficult progress towards democracy. There is no doubt that in the last few years, the most powerful push for change has come from the politics of perestroika. It allowed forces favourable to the process of democraticizing the USSR, of transforming the controlled economy into a market economy and of disarmament, to prevail over the conservative forces of Stalinism and the Cold War. Following on from this there has been a wave of democratic change throughout the world, starting with the Eastern European countries. However, the forces of conservatism have skilfully exploited the nationalistic claims which threaten the unity of the Soviet empire without offering reasonable democratic alternatives to the management of common affairs: these forces organized a coup d’Etat whose obvious objective was to restore what remained of the Soviet ancien régime after perestroika. Its failure signalled the irreversible collapse of communism, which dragged down with it the last vestiges of the old Stalinist empire. The big unanswered question now remains the Union. The USSR is finished, but it is not yet possible to tell whether a new Union will succeed in taking shape – one whose nature, if the forces of democracy prevail against the nationalistic arrogance of the republics, can be none other than federal. If the forces of disunity should prevail over those of unity, the whole of Europe could enter into a state of growing anarchy. The nationalism of these small states would end up rekindling the nationalism of larger ones, both on the eastern front, where Great Russia could once more be tempted by its centuries-old imperial mission, and on the western front, where the European Community, still hesitating between confederation and federation, might not succeed in containing the hegemonic impulses of a newly unified Germany.
With these reservations, it nevertheless seems possible to state that the direction of the new course of world politics is the following: the peace process which has been achieved in Western Europe in the post-war period is asserting itself, with difficulty, also at world level, thanks to the policy of détente started by the two superpowers. The ideological barriers which opposed communism to democracy no longer exist. Democracy can finally be asserted everywhere as a universal value. As happened in post-war Europe among the major industrialized countries, laborious attempts are being made to create permanent institutions to guarantee common security and economic development. However, in contrast to what took place in Europe (and is still happening, because the struggle for European unification is by no means over), on the world level no international institutions have yet been realized that are strong enough to guarantee the irreversibility of the process. Humanity is troubled by enormous problems which threaten its very survival. These include the environmental destruction caused by a productive system which was developed in an age of abundant natural resources, and the tensions caused by the underdevelopment of the South, which no longer passively accepts its conditions of extreme poverty. It is necessary to construct at world level, in a first stage at least among the countries of the Northern hemisphere, institutions capable of guaranteeing an irreversible policy of disarmament and of planning the first indispensable moves to begin a sustainable development of the world economy. In short, it is necessary to build an international order based on the rule of law, which guarantees to every people and every individual, in conditions of equality with all other peoples and all other individuals, participation in the government of common affairs. Hence, what is on the agenda of world politics is the construction of a “solid international state”.
Europe has particular responsibilities, because it can influence, for good or ill, the results of this process. It could, even in the near future, become a federation, at least as regards the administration of the Economic and Monetary Union. The possibility that it could act as a subject in world politics with greater effectiveness than the current Community is able to, will clearly strengthen all those groups favourable to the policies which the European Community has until the present pursued with tenacity, but not with sufficient vigour. These policies include disarmament, the ecological conversion of the economy, supporting perestroika, co-operation with the countries of the East, and the development of the countries of the South. Federal completion of European unification will thus represent an essential contribution to the consolidation of the world peace process.
In the unfortunate circumstance that the forces of disunity should prevail, for a transitory period, in the Soviet Union, the international responsibility of Europe would undoubtedly not be diminished, but rather increased considerably. The process of world peace and unification would suffer an interruption due to the vacuum of power which would be generated in the Euro-Asiatic region. But to the extent that Western Europe is able to complete its political unity with no further hesitation, Atlantic co-operation with the USA will be strengthened inevitably, keeping alive and possibly reinforcing the main international institutions that, in the post-war period, have guaranteed the immense economic development of the western region, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. History often proceeds in a zig-zag fashion. Whereas perestroika proposed to integrate the entire Soviet Union in the world politico-economic system as quickly as possible, the reactionary victory of nationalism could force the peoples of the ex-Union to suffer a new long period of isolation. However, it is unlikely that the western world should prepare to face a new phase of cold war. The collapse of the empire may be succeeded by a period of instability and anarchy in Eastern Europe. But it would be very unlikely for a new “nuclear bear” to present itself on the historical scene, a bear able to threaten the rest of the planet with conquest and destruction.
In this changed international context new tasks await the federalists. Europe is a model and a laboratory for the politics of world unification. But the range of operation of the new process is worldwide and the European dimension, however important it may be, is only a part of the whole. Today, for the European federalists, it is possible to act effectively only by co-ordinating their action on a worldwide level, in collaboration with all federalist movements which, in whatever continent they work, have as their aim the defeat of nationalism, the overcoming of absolute national sovereignty and the construction of a democratic world government.
It is therefore opportune to think again of the current relevance of the Ventotene Manifesto. It has represented the constant source of inspiration for the European federalists’ policy for the entire post-war period. But the world has changed profoundly since that distant 1949. The objective of European Federation, which at that time seemed only to be a historical possibility, thanks to the tenacious commitment of the federalists and to the realization of the first supranational institutions, has progressively become a real point of reference in European politics. Federalism is no longer an ideal pursued by a small group of utopians, but an effective political force, even if atypical compared to traditional parties. European Federation has become a concrete project for some national governments, for the European Parliament and for the major democratic parties. This is a positive fact which must be considered as the first great victory of the European federalists. Precisely for this reason we must ask ourselves about the objectives and the battles which lie before us in the new era. European Federation is only the “first step” on a long journey which European federalists are determined to pursue to the very end.
Nationalism and federalism.
The historical value of the Ventotene Manifesto consists of three major declarations. The first identifies the dividing line between progress and reaction, i.e. it is a hypothesis about the course of contemporary history. The second identifies the concrete objective for which it is possible and right to fight, i.e. European Federation. The third declaration, finally, concerns the means, that is to say the most effective type of organization for achieving specified political objectives.
The line between progress and reaction is finely drawn in the Ventotene Manifesto. “The dividing line between progressive and reactionary parties no longer coincides with the formal lines of more or less democracy, or the pursuit of more or less socialism, but the division falls along a very new and substantial line: those who conceive the essential purpose and goal of the struggle as being the ancient one, the conquest of the national political power and those who see the main purpose as the creation of a solid international state”. The enemy of federalists is therefore nationalism, in whatever form it manifests itself, whether in claims for new military and economic frontiers, or whether in defending, to the bitter end, existing frontiers. The nation-state is a reactionary and anti-democratic political formula in our century, because it is impossible to manage interdependence peacefully on the basis of a political principle which exalts discrimination between peoples, denies fundamental human rights, and justifies violence to the point of sanctioning the duty to kill the foreigner. Nationalism is the ideology of the political division of mankind.
Until now, the struggle to overcome the nation-state has, however, not been able to start except in Europe, where the historical conditions are ripe for an irreversible crisis of the nation-state. This declaration is clearly made in the Ventotene Manifesto, but the reasons are not sufficiently explained. In fact, the Manifesto does not foresee – and this lacuna was openly acknowledged by Spinelli himself later on – the possible division of the world into two spheres of influence by the two superpowers at the end of the Second World War. The international system based on military balance of power was thus extended from Europe to the world, opening a new phase in the history of the great powers. Only in Europe had the crisis of the nation-state already reached its final stage and no hope of autonomous life could remain for the countries which had sparked off the homicidal fury of the Second World War. Not even the victors emerged unharmed from the conflict, and in any case their victory had been more the result of external help than the fruit of an autonomous strength. The European system of national powers was by then finished. There therefore began a period of acute crisis of power in Europe – so it was thought in the Manifesto – which would open the way to a bold group of federalists able to fight effectively “with propaganda and with action” for the objective of the United States of Europe.
With the globalization of the production process, the start of the international peace process and the affirmation of democracy as a universal value, the dividing line between those who fight to set up “more or less democracy, more or less socialism” within the nation-states, and hence pursue as an essential goal the conquest of national political power (playing the game of reactionary forces), and those who fight for “the creation of a solid international state”, has by now become not only an accepted principle of political action (even if partially and in exceptional circumstances) by the major traditional political forces in the European Community, but also a criterion for orienting world political action.
At the beginning of the European adventure, only the small group of federalists, whether they were organized in a movement or whether they acted in isolation like Jean Monnet, had adopted this mode of thinking and acting with coherence. But, with time, thanks to the constant pressure of the federalists on the political class, and to the progress of European integration, even traditional political forces were obliged to recognize the necessity of overcoming national sovereignty by giving effective powers to the European Community system. This dividing line was clearly visible on the occasion of the first legislature of the European Parliament, when Altiero Spinelli succeeded in forming a majority alignment of “innovators” on the basis of their consent to the Draft Treaty for European Union, despite the fact that within each party – Liberal, Christian Democrat, Socialist etc. – there continued to exist pockets of “national conservatism”.
In the new era of international politics, the conditions can be seen for this fundamental principle of federalist action spreading far and wide beyond the European continent. As long as the logic of the Cold War prevailed, federalists could naturally foresee that sooner or later the two superpowers would have to come to terms with the contradictions generated by the progressive globalization of the production process. Until that moment, the political class, in the USA and in the USSR, would be unlikely to look beyond policies aimed at consolidating and reinforcing national sovereignty. The USA and the USSR symbolized the supreme power, which no-one dared challenge seriously, and the bipolar balance of power represented the immovable bulwark of the policy of preserving the system of national sovereignty in the world. Only in Western Europe had a breach appeared on the front of national sovereignties, through which the federalist avant-garde had been able to penetrate successfully. At the world level, in the epoch of opposing blocs, federalists were not able to do more than keep alight the flame of a symbolic alternative to the rock-like system of national power.
The beginning of a new international detente was accompanied by an inevitable and parallel weakening of the international leadership of the two superpowers. The imperial system was obliged to beat a retreat, not only by the young and exuberant forces of democracy and peace, but also by economic corporations and repressed ethnic groups, which claimed from one day to the next to become active subjects in international politics. In this way there began a period of turbulence characterized by an obvious asymmetry between East and West. In the western area the process of overcoming national sovereignties was already channelled in the direction of creating functional institutions which were potentially supranational (the EEC, the Group of Major industrialized Countries, the IMF etc.) which represent a barrier, even if not yet insuperable, to nationalistic temptations. A different situation obtains in the countries of the former communist bloc.
Let us consider the first results and the possible outcomes of perestroika. It has activated enormous democratic energy, not only in the USSR, but throughout the whole world. Thanks to the struggle for the democratization of the Bolshevik regime, the historical prejudice of communism against democracy as a “bourgeois” value has finally collapsed. This is a political victory of universal value. No Communist regime – where such regimes survive, as in China – can still base the negation of human rights, and of citizens’ participation in the control of political decisions, on the pretence of a historical opposition between democracy and communism. In fact, not only have all the Eastern European communist governments that still denied fundamental democratic liberties collapsed, but also those single-party regimes of the southern hemisphere, particularly in Africa, which insist on refusing political pluralism, have come under criticism.
However, perestroika has not only liberated the forces favourable to the democratization of political and social life. The suffocating ideological mantle of Stalinism had also kept in check the national rivalries within the Soviet Union. Scarcely had central power started the process of liberalization, than the demands of small nationalities burst forth, not knowing how else to claim a greater degree of autonomy than through the eighteenth century idea of absolute national sovereignty. But it is clear that if the separatist demands should be met without an opposing current of public opinion being consolidated, which is favourable to international integration – impossible without a federal union which co-ordinates the republics and represents them in the major centres of world politics – there would begin a most serious and dangerous period in European politics, similar to the Balkanization which followed the dismantling of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires.
The dispute between nationalities in the USSR (and in central Europe) is however a problem whose solution is not independent of the more general peace process in international politics. The factors for cohesion of the Soviet state, which in the Stalinist period consisted of the Leninist myth and Grand Russian nationalism, must necessarily weaken to the point of disappearing completely, with the advance of the process of democratization, which is to say of political pluralism, autonomy for the republics and their opening up to the outside world. The international reasons for perestroika are just as important as the internal ones. The United States – as they showed in the course of all the negotiations on disarmament, during the Gulf War and during the attempted coup in Moscow – have a strong interest in the policy of detente. Moreover, Western Europe has an even greater interest than the USA in a more than purely symbolic dismantling of the Iron Curtain and in the definitive consolidation of democracy in a new Euro-Asiatic Union. It is on the basis of these solid motives, both economic and of security, that a convergence of raison d’Etat is emerging among all countries of the northern hemisphere. For this reason, the democratic forces of the USSR can count on positive European and international support. Their success will increasingly depend on the possibility of building a “European Common Home” in which the development of a grand intercontinental market can be planned, and security can be guaranteed without there being any further necessity to stockpile increasing quantities of arms on national borders. The real problem of the restless nationalities, in the USSR, and in Europe, will then show up in all its simplicity: it is not a question of moving frontiers or putting up new ones, but of entirely eliminating them in the context of supranational integration, as the nations of the European Community are doing.
The positive repercussions of this peace process among the industrialized countries could be extended even to the Third World. Cuts in military expenditure and the elimination of the tensions between the two superpowers will certainly contribute to diminishing, if not completely eliminating, the regional conflicts between poor countries which in the last few decades have been the major cause of violence and war in the world. In a climate of detente, it will moreover become possible to relaunch the North-South dialogue which has never been able to achieve positive results because of the enormous military outlay spent by the richer and more powerful countries. But this is only a possibility. It should not be forgotten that precisely the withdrawal of the great empires to defensive positions will also open up dangerous spaces for the most arrogant dictators that infest the poor areas of the world to step into. The overbearing acts of a bully will be easily masked under the ideological mantle of anti-imperialist crusading. The image of the enemy has gone from among the great world powers, but regional conflicts, and not only small ones, could explode between rich and poor countries or between poor countries alone, where the light of a fleeting glory may help the miseries of daily life to be forgotten.
Thus the conditions for applying the dividing line drawn by the Ventotene Manifesto exist, in every region and every continent where the disruptive threat of nationalism is present. As has already happened among the nations of the Community, it is essential that all peoples which intend to participate in building a new world should begin to consider seriously the federalist alternative. Until now, countries have found their main cohesive force in the principle of nationhood, that is in common blood (stock, race) or in ethnicity. The image of the enemy thus functioned as a unifying force, in the absence of common, equally cohesive, democratic values. In the new world however, peoples have to learn to live without the fear of the enemy beyond the borders: on the contrary, they will find the progress of civilization is stimulated by cultural pluralism and the proximity of other peoples. The construction of democracy within countries must be accompanied by a parallel process of democratic unification between countries. It is of course necessary to be aware that in the Caucasus, the Baltic, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and so on, the degree of supranational integration is still much more limited than in Western Europe, and that therefore the possibilities for avant-garde federalist action will be correspondingly less. However, it is certain that possibilities for action will present themselves, even if the alternative between progress and reaction will not be as clearly visible as it has been within the European Parliament. On this subject, it must not be forgotten that the victorious federalist alignment in the European Parliament was prepared for by the experience of years of semi-clandestine struggles, efforts and pre-political approaching marches (first the Community had to be established, and then it was necessary to campaign for election by universal suffrage for the European Parliament). But what matters is not so much the distance or the proximity of the objective, as the direction of the march: we need a compass to orient our political action. We may lose out way even with a compass, but it is certain that without any criteria for orientation we will get lost in the forest. The nationalist-federalist alternative represents the compass for the new era.
In the difficult new international context, in which even those countries with most interest in the development of the peace process could be drawn into the trap of armed conflict, the federalist objective of world government should be a means of orienting political action in the right direction. The end of the Cold War cannot leave room for a new world order in which hegemony is exercised by some new or old superpower, or by a group of strong countries. The new world no longer wishes to be governed by a “number one”, nor by some emissary of the latter, and it would be shameful for the countries of the industrialized North to arrogate to themselves the task of policing the poor of the South. For this reason, every international crisis should be tackled on the premise that every situation must be exploited to reinforce the powers of the UN, involving the greatest number of countries, rich and poor, in the search for collective solutions, until the eventual transformation of the UN into a real democratic world government is effected. In some cases, where there are already regional groups of countries – such as the European Community, CSCE, OAU, MERCOSUR, ECOWAS, ASEAN, the Arab League, and so on – peaceful solutions must also be sought within their area, with a view to the democratic reinforcement of existing regional institutions. In any case, in the new era of international politics, it no longer seems possible to achieve stable settlements of the international order by means of gunboat diplomacy. The past is over for ever.
It is certain, to return to the fundamental principle of the Ventotene Manifesto, that if world problems are considered in their complexity and interdependence, one cannot but observe that human progress depends increasingly on the achievement of a “solid international state”, in other words on a democratic world government capable of tackling and solving common problems with the agreement of all the peoples of the world. Democracy has by now become a cultural heritage shared by all the great currents of political thought. The area covered by democracy is progressively extending to every region of the planet. Even the world of Islam, which until recently seemed impermeable to foreign “western” influences, now seems more inclined – in some countries (such as Pakistan, Turkey, the region of the Maghreb, etc.) – to allow in the fresh wind of political freedom and human rights. But without the consolidation of the international peace process by means of solid common democratic institution, the forces of national democracy will be increasingly obliged to subordinate their gains to the superior claims of state security. If international politics is governed by the laws of imperialism, no country, however democratic it may be, can escape the necessity of seeking the greatest power to assure its independence. And democracy, in these circumstances, becomes at the most a convenient simulacrum to cover up petty power games.
Federalism and nationalism are thus the two polarities to which the forces of progress and reaction are drawn. Whoever fights for freedom, democracy and social justice as goals to be achieved for the exclusive advantage of only that portion of the human race that by historical accident lives within sacrosanct national borders, will end up “even if involuntarily, by playing the game of the reactionary forces”. Only those who accept as their chief objective the construction of supranational democratic institutions – both regional and global – will, at the same time, work in the interests of their nation, democracy, and mankind. The only political thinking which permits concrete promotion of democratic ideals, in the era of interdependence, is federalism.
The European Federation, international democracy and the transition to world government.
The achievement of the European Federation will represent the culmination of a long historical process, in which the external forces of world politics will have contributed no less decisively than the internal driving forces. The end of the balance of power established at Yalta, the decline of the system of military alliances under the protective wing of the superpowers, and the uncontainable movement for German unity have, in recent years, forced the Community to accelerate progress towards monetary and political union. In substance, what has to be done is to make the Community’s system of government democratic, and overcome the present ineffectiveness caused by the principle of unanimity which legitimizes the power of veto of countries opposed to European unity. The Community is presently constrained to overcome the democratic deficit if it wants to exist as an active subject in international politics. If it lacks the will and determination to make this choice, Europe will be reduced to a free trade area under German-US domination. There would then be a risk that it would be not only in Western Europe that the forces of nationalism and international anarchy, the inflexible enemies of democracy, would get the upper hand.
The process of European unification will become irreversible given two conditions. The first is that the institutional reform now in progress should allow the majority group in the European Parliament to control the executive. This is the essence of the modern democratic state. In the world of interdependence, an enormous number of international institutions has already been created. But the difference between federal and confederal institutions lies in their susceptibility to democratic control. The nature of the Community has from its very foundation been that of a confederal institution with the potential for federal development (universal suffrage for the European Parliament was in fact part of the plan). The second condition concerns the establishment of the Economic and Monetary Union, with the transfer of national monetary sovereignty to a central European bank responsible to the democratic organs of the Community.
It must now be observed that the federal institutions that are about to be created in Europe are quite new in kind, if compared to those already existing in the USA, Canada or Switzerland. None of these federations exists as a result of taking over from historically consolidated nation-states. The nature of the European Federation is new and different: it inaugurates the epoch of international democracy. Furthermore, and the relevance of this fact is crucial for discussing the role of Europe in the world, the European Federation will consolidate itself pari passu with the advancement of the process of world unification. It is an integral part of this process, because it is inevitable that every European decision has a worldwide impact.
Let us consider the principal characteristics of the European Union which is now in the process of being built. The essential nucleus of the European Federation will lie in the democratic government of the Economic and Monetary Union. This represents an institutional minimum, but one sufficient to bring into existence a new model of international relations. National politics tends by its very nature to be exclusive. What is not national is foreign. For nationalists, every individual may belong to one, and only one, political community “by nature”. It follows that, even when the necessity for interdependence is recognized, the models of the past are slavishly applied. In disputes between nationalities, such as are currently particularly acute in the USSR and Eastern Europe, the quest for autonomy is considered inseparable from the demand for absolute national sovereignty, based on a separate currency and national army. The Community, until now, because of the delays with which the process of political unification has been proceeding, has passively swallowed this negative model of cohabitation. The realization of European democracy would be of crucial innovatory significance. The transformation of the Community into a federation would affirm the possibility of a positive model of international integration, in which the nations, while keeping their own cultural and political identity, would participate democratically in the common management of common policies. It would be the first successful experiment in international democracy. Many sectors of political activity, which previously were managed by individual governments, and which in the international context generated difficulties and disagreements (often insoluble), will become an internal problem. Currency is a case in point. With a European currency and a central European bank, independent national monetary policies will finally become circumscribed, and with this the possibility of arbitrary manoeuvres on monetary value by national governments. In this way one of the principal causes of international monetary and financial instability, which was generated by the collapse of the system of fixed parity instituted at Bretton Woods, will be eliminated at the root. As an equally important corollary of monetary unification, it must be observed that budgetary policies too will have to be adapted to the new situation. Budgetary surpluses and deficits, as experience has shown, have serious international effects in an economic system. In monetary union, individual member states will have to accept a common discipline. They must, in other words, avoid spending more than they earn, which in the current situation sparks off inflationary imbalances and financial disorder in the European market.
This decisive monetary reform will be the premise of a really new deal in the European economy. Monetary union will in fact represent an excellent platform for a radical reform of the economic system. The crisis of the welfare state, and thus of the relationship between the state and the market, is a vitally important chapter in the crisis of the nation-state. Until now the efforts of traditional political forces – from liberals to socialists – to find a solution to this have been in vain. The European Union may represent the key to a profound change. The failure of the planned economy in countries of real socialism certainly does not mean the triumph of capitalism, in which public power abandons the attempt to put the collective interest before the private when the necessity presents itself. In contrast to the USA, Europe has known a more just balance between the requirements of efficiency, which can be pursued through the competitive dynamics of the market, and those of social justice, which are only achievable through adequate legislation and public intervention aimed at correcting inequalities and injustices generated by the system of private production. The continuation of this tradition of economic policy, which is realized by means of an intelligent balance between the public economy and the capitalist market, will call for some institutional reforms in Europe, complementary to the Economic and Monetary Union, so as to make sure that the creation of the internal market does not simply mean deregulation, with consequent major social and regional inequalities. On the one hand, it will be unavoidable to attribute to local authorities – regions and municipalities – an effective fiscal and taxational autonomy in order to put them in a position to run public services as responsibly as possible. The bureaucratic centralized state has shown itself unable to provide these services with the quality and in the quantity the public wishes. A significant example of this incapacity is the delay and inadequacy with which the nation-state is dealing with the ecological predicament and producing policies to safeguard their environmental, historical and artistic heritages. On the other hand, democracy, which so far has scarcely touched the world of industrial production, will have to penetrate into the structure of the firm in order to reform it radically. It is a question of allowing each individual who wants to take on entrepreneurial responsibility to be able to do so on equal terms with those who already possess, whether by good fortune or heredity, a source of capital. Capitalism should no longer be considered the privilege of the few. Opportune reforms of the credit market and of the system of social security should allow everyone to become entrepreneurs simply on the basis of their own capabilities. With these measures in favour of greater economic democracy, an objective of no lesser importance (apart from a more just distribution of income) would be realized: that of guaranteeing full employment, because whoever possesses the will and ability to a useful job will be able to obtain the necessary means to start a new business. Europe will thus be able to become the experimenting ground for an original model of economic democracy, capable of uniting efficiency with distributive justice, without running into the faults either of anarchic capitalism or of the collectivist system.
This economic model will only become possible, however, in the context of new political institutions. The crisis of European democracy is to a large extent the fruit of the bureaucratic centralism inherited from the last century, when the important thing was, quite rightly, to overcome the remains of feudalism still rooted in local life, by means of the centralization of functions. In the contemporary world it is absurd to keep local autonomies under the suffocating guardianship of central government. The fundamental principles of federalism do not apply only to the reorganization of international life, but also to relations between local communities. The federal state is an institution consisting of independent and democratically co-ordinated governments. On this basis the broadest participation of citizens in politics is possible. Good institutions select good governors. The decadence of European political life, signalled by public scandals, by the arrogance of power, and by diminishing electoral participation, can be conquered only by achieving profound democratic reform which completely brings down, or at least weakens, the thick screen of power which separates the ruling class from those they rule. The birth of European citizenship should also signal the beginning of a new epoch in democracy and political participation, from the local community to the European government.
If we now consider Europe’s role in the world, the most significant fact lies in how European unification can speed up the international peace process. Economic and technico-scientific interdependence has by now created a society that is integrated on a world scale. The members of this nascent world-community share the values of cosmopolitanism, and feel themselves as potentially citizens of a single international political community because the costs of an armed conflict and of non-participation in the world economy are greater than the enormous benefits obtained by those countries who have chosen peaceful co-operation. The great political battles of the modern age – first the protestant reform with the conquest of religious freedom, and then of the rule of law – made the principles of religious tolerance, respect for freedom of thought and of association, basic human rights and political pluralism, triumph in Europe. These ideas, which modern politics is trying to realize through the principle of democratic government, are progressively conquering the whole world, because they are essentially constitutive of human dignity itself. People from different nations, religions and cultures aspire to become members of a cosmopolitan society, open to dialogue and to solidarity with those who share a common destiny. Cosmopolitan society is still a natural society, in the sense that the modern cosmopolitan individual – daily immersed, through a myriad of messages, in the thick web of world interdependence – perceives international events as an external fact, over which he has no control, and to which he must adapt. It is precisely this constraint which raises the need and provide the will among progressive political forces to realize democracy also at an international level. Without an ever wider diffusion of this way of thinking and acting, it would be impossible to conceive of a future for the human race. If the planet is to be saved from ecological catastrophe or from extermination through hunger and war, it is imperative that all the citizens of the world consider themselves as a single people, a single political community. Only a political community can govern itself. An anarchic world is governed by the blind conflict of interests. This crucial cultural revolution is asserting itself, to varying degrees of intensity, in almost every continent, but we are still very far from its universal acceptance. A portion of the human race, numerically not insignificant, which depending on time and place considers race, religion, or ethnicity the supreme value, still excludes itself from the sphere of modern cosmopolitan society.
Contemporary politics is thus torn by a double contradiction. In the first place, cosmopolitan society, which identifies with the fundamental values of democracy, is not yet in a position to organize international politics on the basis of democratic principles. Peaceful co-operation – where it has made progress – is thus continually threatened by the return of the old rules of power politics. In the second place, the large continental areas of the North, in which the institutions of international democracy are being laboriously constructed, must deal with countries, in particular with some countries of the South, who do not accept these rules, because they also feel themselves unjustly excluded from the “Club of the Rich”.
In Europe these profound contradictions are concentrated with greater intensity than elsewhere. Europe, which in the past was able to let loose the bloodiest national wars and to build imposing colonial empires thanks to its exuberant energy, is attempting the birth of a multiethnic and multiracial society. The European Community is not a nation. It is a political state entity with no eternally defined borders, open to the entry of new nations and with a tendency to be sympathetic, even if with understandable difficulties, to immigration from poorer countries.
It is these first characteristics of European foreign policy which indicate what contribution the European Federation could make – once the democratic reform of the Community has been completed – to the world peace process. Europe was able to transform the old colonial relationship of domination over the South of the world into relations of co-operation for development thanks to the Lomé Conventions, which represent – even if with serious gaps – the first important attempt to achieve on a continental basis the demands of poorer countries for a new international economic order. With regard to Mediterranean countries, Europe has played the happy role of a catalyst: first undermining consent to the dictatorial regimes of Spain, Portugal and Greece; and then consolidating the new democracies by means of their entry into the Community. A similar influence is manifesting itself with regard to numerous other countries in the Mediterranean basin, such as Turkey, Malta, Cyprus, Morocco, and so on.
But with regard to the countries of Eastern Europe, the present European Community, without an effective federal government, will not be in a position to propose policies suited to the gravity of the situation. These countries, by now on the way to democracy, are insistently, and rightly, knocking on the door of the Community. The old policy of association is wholly inadequate. Western Europe, which became rich during the opulent years of the American protectorate, has a duty to do more, and it can, on condition that it becomes a true federation. In this case it could enlarge itself immediately to include the Eastern countries, offering them a transitory period to adapt their economies to that of the single market. The migratory waves which come from these countries are significant. These populations consider themselves European and aspire to political solidarity, which cannot but mean common citizenship. Only in the context of a European Federation expanded towards the East will it be possible to stabilize the political context and reduce the now desperate problem of a wealthy Europe envied by an impoverished Europe, to an internal problem of regional imbalances. Naturally the Europe of the rich will have to set up an austerity policy, like that practised by Germany to help unification. This is the meaning of the international state. It is unthinkable that without a common feeling of citizenship, sufficient solidarity between West and East can be realized. It would be absurd to relegate the populations of the East beyond a now non-existent Iron Curtain, abandoning them to their own destiny, after having preached, for decades, the abominations of an imperial system which kept Europe divided.
The grand directives of European foreign policy thus seem defined with sufficient clarity. By means of the instruments of association and membership, the European Community has succeeded in progressively neutralizing the major causes of conflict with some countries, to the point of subjecting international relations to the juridical rules of the Treaty and specific agreements of association. The European Federation will be able to eliminate completely the aspects of power from international relations, to the point of their absolute subordination to the principles of democracy. Europe can thus bring to life in world politics a new model of international order based on law.
Equally obvious, on the other hand, are the limits of this foreign policy: it cannot hold with regard to those countries which do not yet accept the principles of peaceful co-operation and the rejection of violence in international controversies. Indeed, it is significant that Europe was unable to resolve the critical situation which blew up in the Middle East, where politics still speaks the language of arms. Where force is necessary, the European Community, lacking an army of its own, has no capacity for short term intervention, and so has to give way to whichever countries, such as the USA or the European countries themselves in military alliance, have sufficient military strength. For this reason, there are those who maintain that the European Federation, like all existing federations, must equip itself with its own defence, which would allow it to act on the global scene on an equal footing with the great nuclear powers.
This proposal, however, hides an ambiguity. The new Europe does not need to assert its identity in the context of a hostile world. It is important to avoid mechanically applying the solutions of the past to the present: security does not only depend on the power of arms. If the world’s balance of power is dominated by the logic of power politics, the necessary behaviour of countries is that of arming themselves with the goal of maintaining, through their foreign policy, the existing balance of power, or of modifying it to their own advantage. But Europe is building its unity in a world which is now on the way to disarmament, in which security depends increasingly on the intensification of international cooperation and on the reinforcement of those institutions that guarantee it. It is in this perspective that the problem of European defence must be examined. This does not concern the possibility that the European federal government should organize and co-ordinate the national military forces of member countries in case of necessity, so as to constitute a stable body of European “blue berets”. The crucial question concerns the formation of a real European army – evidently equipped with a nuclear potential at least equal to that of France and Great Britain, since it is hard to imagine these two countries giving their nuclear weapons up without some counterpart on a European level. This would be sufficient for Europe to play the role of a major power, similar to that played in the past by the USA and the USSR, or in fact potentially greater, if one thinks of the enormous productive potential which a unified Europe could develop.
The nature of European foreign policy, and thus also the necessity that it be founded prevalently on military force or on other factors (such as the quest for common security), will depend on the essential characteristics of the new international order following the end of the Cold War. If the world peace process made possible by USA-USSR detente is consolidated, it is quite natural that Europe should participate in it and favour it. Despite the difficulties created by the nationalistic disorders in Balkan Europe and in the USSR, this is already happening. Europe and the United States are largely favourable to the introduction of the USSR into the world market (and hence into the IMF and GATT) and to the creation of a common security system through the strengthening of the CSCE and the UN. Thus, respective raison d’Etat are converging towards common objectives, and this convergence has now completely changed the state of international public opinion. Fears that Europe must still defend itself against the enemy from the East, after the events of ‘89 and the efforts of the USSR to reform its constitution along democratic and federal lines, are increasingly subsiding. The truth is that Europe could live in absolute security the day that co-operation for development be made irreversible among all those countries which once lined up along opposing fronts in the two military blocs which are now obsolete. The best guarantee for European security is the abolition of frontiers with its own neighbours. In the new world context, while the creation of a European currency will contribute to opening and integrating Europe even more to the rest of the world, a European defence would have quite the opposite significance.
The creation of a European nuclear defence would inevitably be seen by the world as a step towards a policy of rearmament, because it would allow Europe to fulfil the role of a superpower at the very same moment that the nuclear empires are being dismantled. Only a most serious about-turn in international politics could provoke a change in public opinion such as to justify the construction of a European nuclear power. Perhaps the breaking up of the USSR and a situation of growing anarchy in all of Central Europe could cause a reversal of public opinion like the one that, it should not be forgotten, was at the origin of German unity, which came about not against the process of European unification – as would certainly have happened in the absence of the Community – but in its favour, actually accentuating the impulse towards Monetary and Political Union. In any case, a nuclear defence can be justified only in the context of an active or potential nuclear threat. But possible ethnic conflicts in Europe, however serious, can hardly be repressed with the use of an atomic weapon, and in any circumstances could not represent a mortal threat to the Community. Finally, possible regional crises in the South of the world do not seem capable of modifying the world peace process and the state of public opinion radically. The Gulf War showed that acute conflicts can be governed and kept to regional dimensions by Northern countries, provided that a much greater role is projected for the UN, the only legitimate authority for using force in a crisis which opposes rich countries against poor ones. In the epoch of world unification, the security function is inevitably shifted from the national and regional context to that of the world. A European army would be none other than the expression of a world still in a state of flux between the old and the new international order. It would represent the atrophic function of a European Federation, whose influence can only increase via the development of policies of cooperation.
The world role of the European Federation thus seems to be defined. It represents a new model of international relations, and it is in its interests that an ever greater number of countries should agree to base their foreign policy on law and not on force. However, Europe is not the world. The European model of organization of international relations can take on universal significance only if it is taken on by the world outside Europe. Other areas of regional co-operation and other continental federations will have to emerge in Asia, in America and in Africa, in order for it to be possible to pacify populations which today are enemies, and thus progressively eliminate all the obstacles that still make a World Federation impossible. The European Federation is only an experimental and partial model of the new cosmopolitan state in formation. The real cosmopolitan state can only be born when the UN – at present reduced to a faint shadow compared to the hegemonic politics of the great powers – becomes the democratic government of all the citizens of the world. This is the new task to which the federalists are called. Federalism is the political ideology of the cosmopolitan society. All peoples, the South included, are discovering the universal value of democracy. But without federalism it will be impossible to develop and consolidate at an international level the conquests of civilization, which all peoples will bring as their specific contribution to the building of the new era in world politics.
The World Federalist Movement.
Looking over the history of the European Community once more, one can see that every important institutional reform was instigated, directly or indirectly, by initiatives inspired by the gradualistic method of Jean Monnet or by the constituent method of Altiero Spinelli. In particular, it is worth noting the ECSC, proposed by Jean Monnet; the Common Market, which emerged after the fruitless attempt, inspired by Altiero Spinelli, to institute the European Political Community together with a European defence; and, more recently, the case of the Single Act, passed by national governments as a surrogate for the more ambitious Project of European Union, proposed by the European Parliament. In all these cases, the governments were able to overcome the narrow limits imposed by the policy of intergovernmental co-operation, adopting – even if only partially – the proposals for reform of the federalist avant-garde, which must therefore be considered the true active subject in the process of European political unification. However, the fifty years since the Ventotene Manifesto have shown us that federalist initiatives, while showing themselves to be necessary for the advancement of the process of political unification, have manifested very different characteristics from traditional political methods.
The-ways in which the federalist struggle has developed diverge considerably from the guidelines of party politics. Parties aim to conquer power (if they are in opposition) or to keep it (if they are in government). The federalists, organized under the Movimento Federalista Europeo, do not aim to conquer power, for the reason that, as Mario Albertini maintains, “the power to make Europe does not exist”. No party or coalition of parties possesses this power; nor individual national governments, and nor does the European Parliament. The construction of the European Federation consists, in effect, in the creation of a new power, the democratic European government, through a constituent process which draws in all the democratic forces, the European Parliament, the national governments and parliaments. Federalists have chosen to engage themselves in politics without using the traditional instruments of political struggle, i.e. the vote, and participation in elections; still less would they use violence, because there is no sense in fighting for democracy in democratic countries with antidemocratic instruments.
The Movimento Federalista Europeo’s lack of participation in the European elections has been criticized at times on the basis of the consideration that Altiero Spinelli played an avant-garde role, essential in the European Parliament in the course of its first legislature. The suggestion is that his work, interrupted too soon, should be completed. But this observation conceals an insidious identification between the task of the MFE and the exceptional political adventure of Altiero Spinelli. The fundamental role of the MFE is to bring all political parties to adopt the political and institutional minimum of the federalist programme and to remove, at the national and international level, all obstacles which impede the realization of European Federation today and, taking a long view, of World Federation tomorrow. Now, the federalist struggle in the European Parliament, however important, only represents a moment and an aspect of the federalist strategy. Considered carefully, that same initiative of Spinelli’s in the European Parliament became possible because the federalists, for many long years, fought to have the European Parliament elected by universal suffrage and, more recently, the problem of the reform of the Treaties remained on the agenda because in some countries the federalists succeeded in bringing parties and respective national parliaments to take sides on the constituent position. The hypothetical decision of the federalists to enter the lists, against the traditional parties, in an electoral campaign, would reduce their capacity for dialogue with every democratic political force and could even mean the disappearance of the Federalist Movement itself, if the necessary action for maintaining electoral power should end up entirely absorbing the not limitless energies of the federalist militants. In any case, electoral power limits the action of federalists to the conservation of an existing political reality, while their essential task is that of fighting against every form of discrimination. Federalism is the alternative to the world of nation-states. As long as the power to make war exists, and hence the power to kill and to have people killed, federalism will not be realized.
These short notes may perhaps suffice to show what are the real difficulties inherent in the task which the federalists have taken on. Jean Monnet pointed out that the work of preparation for the future, unlike the politics which administers the present, is not performed “under the spotlight”. In effect, not using, unlike the parties, all the financial resources and the power of traditional politics, the federalists must organize their struggle on the basis of the most rigorous financial, political and moral autonomy. The life of the Movement is thus entrusted necessarily to militants who have the ambition “to do something and not to become someone”. The real power resource of the federalists lies in their thinking. For this reason, alongside the traditional organs of the Movement’s organization (like those of any democratic party) there has been a progressive development of autonomous debating structures, to allow all militants, independently of their age and of the office held, to bring their contribution to the politico-cultural line of the Movement. In contrast to organizations in which the traditional power struggle manifests itself, federalist behaviour should be based increasingly on the rule of reason and morality, and less and less on the Machiavellian model of the “fox” and the “lion”.
Awareness of the organizational peculiarities and innovations entailed by the federalist commitment is indispensable to overcoming the difficulties connected with the transition from the European dimension of the federalist struggle to its world dimension. It is in fact particularly urgent to match the territorial extension of the federalist force to the dimensions of the international problems. Just as in the first phase of the federalist experience it was felt to be a priority task to found a democratic organization on a European scale, today it is necessary to develop the federalist strategy on the basis of a Federalist Movement which has the ambition to become worldwide.
In this perspective, the first objective lies in overcoming the rift which developed following the Second World War between world and European federalists. The European federalists were convinced, rightly, that the historical conditions for successfully developing the federalist struggle to overcome national sovereignties only existed in Europe. The Second World War had destroyed the economic and military base of the independence of the European countries. At the world level, according to the European federalists, the two superpowers were involved in a struggle for supremacy which gave no realistic possibility of fighting with any hope of success for a World Federation. Unlike the European federalists, the world federalists maintained that with the UN – whose foundation and whose strengthening they had actively supported, particularly after the explosion of the atomic bomb, prelude of a possible world catastrophe – the preconditions had been set up for the creation of an effective world government. The battle for the regional federations, like that in Europe, did not necessarily represent the first step towards universal peace, the single and worthy objective of the federalist struggle. The climate of the Cold War and the prospect of the birth of a “third force” Europe gave a basis of credibility to the theories of the world federalists and it was thus that, also because of a maximalist stiffening on both fronts, the different political diagnoses were transformed into an inevitable organizational division. Today, with the new prospect of world peace, this rift has no more the right to exist and, in fact, there is already a unification process in progress, promoted by the avant-garde on either side.
The objective on which it seems possible to make a federalist action converge on a world scale is the election of a World Parliament by universal suffrage (in a first stage also by means of a second degree election), as a second chamber of the UN and with a view to a radical reform of the latter. The political significance of this proposal may be summarized in the following three points.
First. Despite the fact that at world level the need is already felt to pass common policies for the safeguard and good government of the whole planet, we still proceed on the basis of the intergovernmental method, which necessarily requires the unanimity of the countries involved. The result is obviously ineffectiveness or paralysis. Moreover, in the best of cases, when an agreement is reached, the management of fragile political proposals is entrusted to sectorial agents (such as FAO, UNCTAD, UNEP, the High Authority established by the Law of the sea, etc.) which, lacking co-ordination with each other, end up by wasting scarce financial resources on inefficient projects. And yet it is not impossible to obtain resources adequate to face the challenges that threaten mankind. Collective security and international justice are two parallel and complementary processes. The arms trade is today fed by the demand of the South, which puts military spending before civil expenditure. But this trade will continue until security is guaranteed to every country, even the smallest, by an international order based on law. It is necessary, therefore, to entrust the management of the world’s resources and adequate military forces to a world government responsible to a parliament elected by universal suffrage. On this institutional basis the passing of a grand world plan of solidarity for development will then become possible and desirable. The countries of the northern hemisphere, by now on the way towards a phase of economic co-operation, cannot agree to fulfil the negative role of armed custodians of their wealth. Just as the conviction grew between the two superpowers that detente and disarmament were a more reasonable choice, because less costly, than the arms race, so for the South the consciousness should sooner or later grow that the enormous quantities of economic and human resources which today are assigned to keep the “rapid intervention” military corps active in areas of crisis, could be more conveniently used in programmes of mutual benefit. Until the foundation of the World Federation, war will always be possible. But peace cannot consist of imposing an unjust international order on the poor using armed force. Peace must be built together in co-operation, guaranteeing a future to the damned of the earth.
Second. The consolidation of the policy of peace among the great nations of the industrialized North, the creation of the European Federation and of possible other regional or interregional federations or confederations (in Africa, in Latin America, the European Common Home enlarged to include North America and Japan, etc.) will raise the problem of establishing co-operation between these great political areas on an institutional basis. For this reason, the democratic reform of the UN will be in the common interest of all peoples who want to participate in a system of collective security, to tackle effectively the urgent problems of the ecological safeguarding of the planet, and to share the advantages of international economic co-operation, which should be based on the solid foundation of a world currency. The population of the South, which represents about two-thirds of the world’s population, is today in practice deprived of real powers in the management of great international policies, and has a particular interest in demanding and promoting world institutions that uphold the principle “one man, one vote”, on the basis of which the modern democratic state was born. Democracy is an ideal which can only advance with the support of effective interests for a more just distribution of world power.
Third. Peace among the countries of the North does not mean world peace. The democratic government of the UN will necessarily be, at the beginning, a “partial” world government, because many peoples, still dominated by dictatorial regimes, win not be able to participate in free elections for the World Parliament. It is in fact with these countries that major conflicts might arise, even necessitating possible recourse to military force. All participants in the election of the World Parliament accept, or will have to end up accepting, even if not explicitly, the renunciation of force in international controversies. But it would be absurd to impose with violence the principle of non-violence on reluctant countries. The force of democracy resides in the will to self-government of individuals and peoples, who must first overcome all obstacles and prejudices which still keep alive the old authoritarian regimes. For this reason, the very existence of the World Parliament will represent a constant point of reference and a potential tool for universal democratization, to the extent that it helps the forces of progress to make their reasons prevail against tyrannical governments.
From this world which is torn by wars, tyranny and poverty, the hope of a new epoch is, with difficulty, emerging. The arsenals are emptying, and the barriers that seemed to defy the centuries are falling. The peoples no longer accept being closed in by their governments, like flocks of sheep in a pen. Barriers cannot be imposed on democracy, because it is not possible to suppress the freedom of every individual to participate in the destiny of the world and to struggle for its survival, threatened as it is by misuse of the prodigious conquests of science and technology, which are still subject to the blind government of interests and power politics. Nationalism, which feeds continual tensions in the international system, is the fundamental obstacle to the unfolding of all the emancipatory potential of the new epoch. Nationalism is the political culture of a closed society, of frontiers, of ethnic discrimination, and of racism. It is at the origin of every major world disaster of the past. Only with federalism is it possible to organize peacefully the integration of free and interdependent nations. The hope of a new world is in federalism.
1. European federalism and world federalism
European federalism and world federalism have common origins, not only cultural but also organizational. The early years of the Federal Union, for example, bear witness to this. It was founded in 1939 in London in an attempt to respond in terms of federal unity to the Nazi-fascist threat hanging over Europe. In the same year, Clarence Streit’s essay Union Now, published simultaneously in the United States and in Great Britain, achieved major success. This essay, outlining the prospect of a federation of democracies against Hitler’s hegemony, came directly to the aid of the founders of the British Federal Union, whose invitation to Streit’s readers to enter their movement received a good response. Moreover, contacts were immediately established between the UK Federal Union and its US namesake, founded by Streit. It was however only at the end of the Second World War, after the atom bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that the various federalist movements which had emerged independently in the United States and Europe sought to co-ordinate their initiatives and to attain a common organizational structure.
In 1946, on the initiative of the British Federal Union, a conference was organized in Luxembourg involving all the principal world federalist movements, from both the United States and Europe, together with representatives of European Federalism. The aim of arriving, in a short period of time, at organizational unification was postponed, among other things because of the difficulty of clearly defining the relationship between the objective of European Federation and that of World Federation. In the meantime, in the same year, without its promoters knowing about the recent meeting in Luxembourg, there was a meeting at Hertenstein, in Switzerland, of representatives of the principal European federalist movements which had emerged during the Resistance. Thus in August of 1947, after the organizers of the two Conferences of Luxembourg and Hertenstein had made contact with each other, there took place at Montreux, within the space of a few days of each other, the founding Congresses of the World Movement for World Federal Government and the European Union of Federalists (UEF). Many federalist militants were members of both organizations. This was the moment in which relations and goals were closest between European federalists (at the UEF Congress of Montreux one of the slogans of the conclusive motion was One Europe in One World) and world federalists. But from then on events in international politics – in other words the advent of the Cold War – inevitably divided the two organizations, which in this context could no longer pursue converging policies.
In the years immediately following the explosion of the atomic bomb, the enormous emotion released by this event throughout the whole world was the basis for a prodigious development in world federalism. This was particularly true in the USA, where, under the courageous moral leadership of Albert Einstein, the first serious attempt was made to found a world government. The USA, in those years, was in the singular and privileged position of holding the monopoly of nuclear energy. Therefore, any initiative of theirs to build a democratic government, together with the USSR and Europe, would have probably carried crucial weight. With the aim of exploiting this possibility, there gathered a group of atomic scientists around Einstein, who, from the First World War onwards, had indefatigably maintained his stance in favour of world government against the rising tide of nationalism. (This group’s official organ became the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists). Later a broader movement of public opinion arose with the same aim, led by the federalist movements (in particular the United World Federalists).
In the meantime, in the British Parliament, some MPs connected to the Federal Union took the initiative of launching the proposal of a People’s World Constituent Assembly, with the aim of achieving a Constituent Assembly by 1950. This was to represent the peoples of all the continents, and be able to demand that governments support the constitution of a world government.
The mobilization in the USA of world federalists and public opinion produced some important political results. In 1946 Massachusetts organized a referendum, in which the population expressed itself in favour of world government. In 1947 the House of Representatives presented a bipartizan motion in favour of strengthening the UN. Between 1945 and 1946 the foundations were laid for what was to become the Baruch Plan. President Truman asked his ambassador Bernard Baruch to begin UN negotiations with the USSR with the aim of putting the control of the production and exploitation of atomic energy in the hands of an international agency, under the aegis of the UN. If the initiative had been successful it would have led to a kind of World Community for Atomic Energy, along the lines of Euratom. But the proposal was increasingly pushed aside and eventually shelved because of the growing distrust between the two superpowers, which were more interested in extracting unilateral advantages from the negotiations than in their strategic resources. Finally, Einstein supported the initiative of the People’s World Convention, and in 1948 a Foundation for World Government was created, whose goal was that of financing a campaign for the federalist constituent assembly. However, despite these efforts, when the Convention was convoked in Geneva in 1950, its failure had to be acknowledged. Only Tennessee had organized proper elections to elect its representatives. There were a few other delegates present from some other countries, but it certainly could not be claimed that the assembly was representative of the “peoples of all the world”. From then on, the world federalists’ attempts to instigate a democratic reform of the UN became increasingly sporadic and lacked the support of public opinion: in a climate of growing tension between the two superpowers (in the years immediately following, the USSR also came to possess nuclear weapons), very few thought it possible to modify the international status quo.
The destiny of European federalism has been very different. In 1947, only a few months after General Marshall’s proposal for a massive plan of American aid for European reconstruction, Altiero Spinelli realized that this was a historic opportunity to relaunch the battle for European unification. The Marshall Plan, declared Spinelli at the 1947 Congress of Montreux, when the UEF was founded, “is an opportunity which the European democracies should seize and exploit, profiting by the chances America offers. If federal institutions are not developed in the political and economic field, the politics of American imperialism will prevail”. In 1949-50, with the Campaign for a federal European pact, the federalists for the first time successfully mobilized public opinion in favour of European Federation. In those same years, Jean Monnet, in the face of reviving nationalistic rivalries between Germany and France, succeeded in having European governments accept his plan for a European Coal and Steel Community, (ECSC). Its goal was to share the administration of certain strategic resources of the European economy by means of the creation of common institutions, which Monnet considered “the first concrete foundation of a European Federation”. And indeed, the ECSC represented a decisive episode in Franco-German reconciliation and the start of the process of European integration.
Shortly after the constitution of the ECSC, the critical problem of German rearmament arose. France was firmly opposed to the Anglo-American proposal to let Germany have an army again in order to contain Stalinist expansionism. As a compromise, a European Defence Community (EDC) was proposed, in other words the constitution of a pool of weapons under European control. The Italian federalists immediately realized that the initiative of the EDC could open the way to European Federation: it was in fact impossible to install a European army without a democratic European government. The federalists’ proposal – thanks to De Gasperi’s firm support for the Memorandum submitted to him by Altiero Spinelli – was finally accepted by the European governments. They appointed the Parliamentary Assembly of the ECSC, which in this period became a real constituent assembly, to work out a project for a European Political Community (EPC). The constituent undertaking failed only because of the sudden refusal of the French Parliament (in August 1954) to ratify the project, after Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg had already given their consent.
Despite this failure, the federalist initiative for the EPC indirectly gave a strong impetus to the process of European integration. The governments, having brought themselves to the threshold of political unification, could not completely ignore public expectations. Thus it was that the negotiations began which were to be concluded in 1957 with the signing of the Treaty of Rome. In the course of the decades that followed, the European Community represented the institutional framework within which the federalists were able to wage crucial battles for its democratization and strengthening: first of all, the battle for direct European Parliamentary elections, and later the battle for a European currency and the European government.
This brief historical outline may perhaps help towards an understanding of the factors which hindered the development of world federalism and those which, in contrast, favoured the growth of European federalism. The formation of a rigid bipolar balance of power at world level, with the USA and the USSR facing each other in implacable enmity, made every effort to reform the UN end in vain, because it was impossible to break into the superstructures of a world system of power built on military and ideological confrontation. The overcoming of this obstacle would have required nothing less than the dismantlement of the system of opposing blocs, and thus a long process of detente in which the populations of both blocs ceased to see each other as the enemy. Only in the last few years has this condition been realized.
On the other hand, the prospects offered to European federalism in the post-war period were quite the opposite. None of the European countries was left with sufficient strength to guarantee its citizens autonomous defence and autonomous economic development. The policy of European integration was thus imposed on European governments as a historical necessity, not as a choice which they could take or leave. The historical and political significance of the Ventotene Manifesto consists precisely in having identified European Federation as a realistic strategic objective and not as an ideal which, after all, had been put forward by many utopians even in the nineteenth century. The strength and the prestige won by the MFE among the traditional political forces lay in having consistently pursued this strategy, even in the most difficult moments, until they succeeded in bringing the objective of European Federation into the programmes of all democratic parties and governments.
World federalism, naturally, could not achieve these results because of the international situation. For this reason, even today, world federalism is not immune to utopian and pre-political aspects: some world federalists, for example, think that as in the days of the Enlightenment it is enough to draw up a good constitutional project to convince national governments to cede their power to a world government. The path so successfully taken by European federalism teaches us that without a daily political struggle against those who hold national power – therefore all national political forces – it is impossible to bring the federalistic objective into the process of integration. Governments, faced with the challenge set by interdependence, content themselves by definition with an “ever closer cooperation”. Federalists ask for a democratic supranational government.
2. The federalist strategy
The federalist strategy consists of identifying the most effective means for the creation of a supranational democratic power, that is for founding a “solid international state”. This is a new task which no traditional political force has ever set as their chief objective. Liberals fight to institute or to reinforce the rule of law within the state. Democrats fight for universal citizen participation in the process of forming the political will, thus realizing representative government. Socialists fight to eliminate every economic and social discrimination which constitutes a real obstacle to the equality of the citizens in the state. In all these cases the point is to change an existing government, not to build a new state. The task of the federalists consists in the creation of an international state over an area in which sovereign nation-states already co-exist.
From the identification of the specific task of the federalists, certain strategic guidelines can immediately be drawn. In the first place, the Federalist Movement must be constituted by men and women whose top priority is their dedication to the struggle for the construction of the international state. Members of traditional parties may also belong to the Federalist Movement, but they are dedicating themselves in an entirely secondary way to the federalist struggle, because they give priority to the conquest of national power. In the second place, the struggle for federal government is such as to involve all the traditional forces, because the currents of liberal, democratic and socialist thought do not deny the values of internationalism and of peace among the peoples of the world. On the contrary, they share them explicitly, but then fail to indicate the means for achieving them. The federalists are thus at the same time enemies and allies of the traditional political forces. The federalist line-up goes right through all the parties, making an internal division between the “innovators”, that is those who are favourable to overcoming national sovereignties, and the “conservatives”. The federalists’ strategy must therefore aim to make the Federalist Movement play an essential role of linking up all the democratic forces, through the constitution of committees or cross-party groups which, by including exponents from all the democratic forces, clearly show the population that in every political force there exists potentially a standpoint favourable to the federalist objective.
If we consider the history of European federalism, we can identify three fundamental and complementary approaches to the strategic problem, which can also be considered as the problem of the transition from a system of sovereign nation-states to the European Federation.
The first of these approaches can be defined as the gradualist method, in the sense indicated by Jean Monnet, who was the first to apply it successfully in the case of the ECSC. From the situation of impasse existing in post-war Europe, according to Jean Monnet there was only one way out: “by concrete and resolute action on a limited but decisive point, which brings about a fundamental change on this point and progressively modifies the very terms of all the problems”. (Memorandum of 3 May 1950). The establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community did indeed produce the results foreseen by Monnet. With Franco-German reconciliation, all the terms of the European problem were modified. There was a change from confrontation and the threat of resurgent power politics, to a policy of cooperation; with time, it even became possible, through well-timed federal initiatives, to develop the embryos of democratic power contained initially in the ECSC. In substance, with the ECSC the European governments agreed to share the administration of significant sectors of economic policy, without for the time being making any inroads on national sovereignty. The project of the ECSC provided for the immediate constitution of a High Authority (which later became the Commission) and for a Parliamentary Assembly which only later was to be elected by universal suffrage. For this reason, Jean Monnet could justly state that the Community represented “les premières assises de la fédération européenne.”
In this embryonic phase of the community’s life, the MFE criticized the “functionalist” approach of Jean Monnet because of the confederal nature of the community’s construction. For the federalists, the common management of some policies only served to hide the determination of national governments not to hand over their sovereignty, which remained intact, at least formally, in the fundamental sectors of currency and defence. In substance, however many competences were in fact transferred to the European level, when it came down to the question “Who governs Europe?”, the answer had to be that there was no democratic European power, but that effective powers still remained in the hands of the national governments. Therefore, against the gradualist or functionalist method of Jean Monnet, the federalists proposed the constituent method, as the only democratic way to build a people’s Europe by the people themselves.
The constituent method is not mentioned in the Ventotene Manifesto, but it is implicit in the democratic nature of the federalist battle. In fact, as the opportunities for the struggle for European Federation became more concrete, the constituent method was defined with great clarity by Spinelli, who was faithful to it right up to his last great battle in the European Parliament. “In politics”, declared Spinelli at the Council of the Peoples of Europe held in Strasbourg in 1950, “as in other fields, there are inventions, methods which cannot be avoided or ignored when certain problems arise. For example, in the French Revolution, the French invented the method of the Constituent Assembly to create the fundamental laws of the state on a democratic basis. Ever since then, no country has been able to apply substantially different methods to establish the basis of a democratic nation-state. Similarly, since the Americans invented the means for moving from a group of sovereign states wishing to unite, to a federal state without legal interruption, the very same method has to be adopted to resolve the same problem here”.
By his tenacious pursuit of the constituent method, Spinelli succeeded on two crucial occasions in bringing the European countries to the threshold of federation. The first was with the European Defence Community (EDC), when it was shown to be clearly impossible to advance on the Union without a parallel project for a European Political Community. The proposal of Altiero Spinelli for a Constituent Assembly empowered to draw up a draft federal constitution, was adopted by De Gasperi, who succeeded, in turn, in imposing it on the governments of the other countries of the Community. The project failed only because of the opposition of the French Assembly, which in August 1954 did not ratify the new Treaty-Constitution.
The second occasion presented itself to Spinelli in the course of the first legislature of the European Parliament that was elected by universal suffrage (1979-84).Thanks to the initiative of an initially small group of federalist representatives, the European Parliament approved by a huge majority a new project for European Union, which was to enable the European Parliament to increase its powers, acquiring legislative power in the sectors within its competence, and subjecting the Commission to political control. Thus an effective mechanism for democratic government of the Community would have been achieved. However, the proposal of the European Parliament, despite the favourable position of France, Italy, Germany and the Benelux countries, was rejected in the Council of Ministers because of the opposition of the United Kingdom.
In this last phase of the struggle for the European Federation, the conviction grew in the MFE that Jean Monnet’s gradualist method and Spinelli’s constituent method should by no means be considered as alternatives. As long as the framework of international politics remains favourable to the process of European unification (in other words as long as the convergence of raisons d’Etat continues), every step forward towards European unity adds to the sum of forces which support the process of integration, adds to the body of public opinion the expectations favourable to a federal outcome, and at the same time adds to the opportunities for federalists to launch the final attack. This situation can be defined as an “inclined plane” from the nations towards Europe. The succession of events in the process of European unification confirms this point of view. The Community, thanks to its initial successes (the Common Market) reinforced the necessity for European unity in public opinion, and allowed the federalists to exploit some evident contradictions such as the existence of a European Parliament not yet elected by universal suffrage. The 1979 European Parliamentary elections were not an arbitrary gift from heaven, but had been prepared for by an intense federalist campaign directed at the parties and national parliaments, starting from 1967. From this point of view, it can also be understood how the failures of Altiero Spinelli’s constituent attempts caused, as a consequence, some important steps forward in the process of unification. After the collapse of the EDC, the European governments started the construction of the Common Market with the Treaty of Rome (1957), and, in 1985, they only succeeded in rejecting the project of Union, proposed by the European Parliament and widely supported by public opinion, on the basis of a compromise which did nothing more than postpone the institutional questions: the institution of the single market by 1992.
These are the reasons that seem to justify a third approach to the federalist strategy: constitutional gradualism. In other words a transfer of to the community level which makes the institution of a democratic government necessary sooner or later must be considered a positive step towards the European Federation. A significant application of this strategy was seen in the struggle for a European currency, started by the MFE in 1976. A single market is impossible without a single currency; and, in democracy, monetary unification is inconceivable unless accompanied by democratic governmental control of monetary policy, which is an essential part of the economic policy of a state. For this reason, the battle for a European currency represented an important phase in federalist strategy, in the sense that it favoured the transfer of monetary sovereignty from the nation-states to the European level and raised the need for a parallel reform of the Community to overcome the inevitable “democratic deficit”. In fact there is a risk that the nation-states will deprive themselves of an essential competence without any democratic organ being able to take on the responsibility of administering the economy at the Community level.
Constitutional gradualism naturally only has any meaning for objectives which implicitly contain or, by increasing the contradictions, facilitate the achievement of the central objective, which is European Federation. In any case, the central concept remains that voiced by Spinelli: without a constituent assembly it is impossible to bring into being a federation of states. For this reason, according to Mario Albertini, “while the method of Jean Monnet allowed to start the process of European unification, Spinelli’s constituent method is indispensable for bringing it to completion”.
The gradualist method and the constituent method are not exclusive to the European experience. In the period leading up to the constitution of the United States of America, both methods can be traced. Once independence from the mother country had been won, the thirteen colonies found themselves with common administrative problems. Maryland and Virginia drew up an agreement for the common administration of Chesapeake Bay and, on the initiative of Virginia, in 1786, a Convention was convened at Annapolis which was to regulate the Confederation’s trade. These examples are very similar to more recent functionalist attempts. Naturally, however, in American history the experience of the Constituent Assembly of Philadelphia in 1787 is fundamental. In the history of world federalism it is easy to trace constituent attempts – like those promoted by Federal Union for a People’s World Convention – and functionalist attempts, like the Baruch Plan promoted by the United States government. But only in the history of European federalism is a logical connection clearly visible between the various approaches to the problem of transition from a system of sovereign states to federal government. This is due to two things: the manifest historical necessity to unite Europe after the irreversible crisis of the European nation-states, and a conscious avant-garde which has consistently pursued the political objective of European Federation by exploiting every contradiction generated by the process of integration.
3. The federal state
The first example in history of a federal state is that of the United States of America. The thirteen colonies which, with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, rebelled against the mother country, found themselves, after the victorious war, having to decide whether to keep alive the fragile unitary structures which they had created to face the British troops, and if so, how; or whether to choose the course of absolute sovereignty and of division. The evils of division were already becoming obvious: jealousies in the control of commerce, small wars for the control of river passages and above all, the tendency to seek dangerous alliances with the great European powers in the attempt to gain advantage over neighbouring states. The Confederation was by then already crumbling.
In 1787, in an attempt to overcome these difficulties, the supporters of unity among the thirteen colonies succeeded in convoking the Convention of Philadelphia which was charged with “the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of the Confederation”. However, in the course of the Convention, it became apparent that the unitary viewpoint could not be accepted without bringing into question the autonomy of the individual states and that, on the other hand, the realization of an absolute independence of the states would completely destroy the union. From this there emerged a compromise which revealed itself to be not only acceptable to both the unitary and the localist currents of thought, but also vital. In substance, a new type of state was born, the federal state, capable of reconciling unity with independence. The Constitution of 1787 respected the principle of popular sovereignty for the American people as a whole, who were directly represented in the Congress and elected the President of the federal government; but the member states remained sovereign in all spheres of competence which the Constitution did not explicitly attribute to the federal level, and they could influence the legislative process of the Union, being jointly represented in the Senate. Judiciary power, in turn, found itself in a clearly privileged position compared to the situation that existed and still exists in centralized states, where it is often obliged to bow to the executive’s greater power. In the United States, judiciary power is effectively sovereign in all questions concerning the respect of the Constitution, because by means of its power to annul any unconstitutional legislative provisions, it can guarantee a balance between the various territorial centres of power, thus ensuring the unity of the federation. In short, the federal state, in juridical terms, is constituted by independent and democratically co-ordinated governments.
There are two important characteristics of the federal state which must now be observed. The first concerns the progress of democracy. It is well-known that certain social problems hinder the establishment of democracy. Major disparities in income and opportunities mean that in practice the idea of political equality remains a dream. However, there are also objective territorial difficulties. Democracy first took shape in the exceptional conditions of the Greek city-state, under the form of direct democracy. In the modern age, after the formation of the nation-states, the formula of direct democracy proved impracticable and it was only after many failed attempts that the formula of representative government was finally reached. On the great continental landmasses, however, this formula seems impracticable because of the distance separating the individual elector from his representative. It was in fact this difficulty which the constituents of Philadelphia had to tackle. According to Hamilton, the formula of the federal stale allows “the enlargement of the orbit” of representative government. The federal slate creates the conditions for the democratic organization of whole continents – apart from the United States, further examples can be observed in Canada and Australia – in which several member-states coexist. The only alternative to the federal method of organizing the interdependence of states is hegemony or imperialism. And if we consider the possibility of federating grand continental federations together, the notion of the federal state makes world federation, the democratic government of humanity, perfectly conceivable.
This capacity of federal government to organize relations between different territorial communities harmoniously is not only valid in an upwards direction, in other words for ever greater geographical areas, but also in a downwards direction, for the smallest administrative units. Switzerland is an excellent example of how, through federalism, it has been possible to organize the co-existence of diverse ethnic and linguistic communities peacefully. Federalism democratically organizes society’s pluralism, from the citizens’ local community council right up to world government.
The second aspect concerns the relationship between federalism and the international order. Hamilton saw quite clearly that to try to keep the peace between “a number of independent unconnected sovereignties ..., would be to disregard the uniform course of human events”. The situation which normally characterizes international relations between sovereignties is that of anarchy, in which the biggest fish eats the smallest. Peace – or, as Kant says more precisely, the truce until the next war, if there is no power above the untamed freedom of states to establish justice – is no more than the fruit of the equilibrium of forces: the balance of powers. The federal state is thus the response to the problem of international anarchy. Only with federal government is it possible to guarantee an international order founded on the rule of law. Universal peace, the fundamental value of federalism, thus cannot but be the fruit of World Federation.
This second aspect of the doctrine of the federal state was not actually perceived as a historical novelty at the time of the creation of the United States of America. The American Revolution became a historical event because of its democratic significance, not for its innovative organizational proposals for international relations. After the French Revolution, the only subject recognized by international relations was the national sovereign state. The history of international politics in the nineteenth century was dominated by the principle of nationality, and the United States itself, by entering as an active subject into world politics, became a nation, with the consequence that it was obliged, in order to augment its military power, to limit increasingly the autonomy of the local governments, thus coming closer to the continental European model of the centralized state. All the federal states that have existed up till now – such as Switzerland, Germany, etc. – are nations in which the citizens recognize their exclusive national identity and respect “natural” borders which automatically exclude the external population as foreign.
It is in the negation of the nation-state that the innovative nature of European federalism must be seen. The European Federation will be the first “international state”, in the sense that for the first time in history, historically consolidated nation-states will unite in a supranational federation. Compared to national federations of the past, the European Federation will present itself as open, that is without definite natural borders marking ethnic, linguistic or territorial entities. The constitution of a democratic European government will be sufficient to define European citizenship, which will be federal, because the fact of being European citizens will be perfectly compatible with the Italian identity, the Lombard identity, and so on.
Naturally the European Federation, like the American one, will also be an imperfect example of federation, in that it will only represent a stage on the way to international democracy and peace. In Europe, we should therefore not exclude the possibility that strong tendencies to close the borders to democratic peoples aspiring to membership, and to use European unity to develop a dominant foreign policy, will come to the fore. In these circumstances, the process of international detente could undergo a sudden halt. The reverse is also true however. A nationalistic and imperialistic European policy could impose itself only with great difficulty, given the pluralistic and multinational character of European society, which has been open to international cooperation for several decades now and is conscious of the vital requirement for Europe to extend and strengthen peaceful relations with the rest of the world. The best guarantee of security in Europe resides in its capacity for dialogue and cooperation with the external world. Imperialistic politics are an inheritance of the Cold War which certainly cannot represent the basis for building constructive international relations. Unfortunately the world has not yet found the way to establish a new international order founded on the rule of law, and the threat of anarchy hangs heavily over the future of civilization. But it is no longer thinkable to rebuild a world order founded on the hegemony of one or more superpowers. The future of European foreign policy thus seems sufficiently defined. The European Federation can play a positive role, thereby increasing its influence in the international context, only if it favours the process of world unification. On this basis, European Federalism could be an important catalyst for world federalism. Europe is the embryonic model of the new international world order.
The positive role of Europe as a model of the new “international state” is evident if one takes into consideration the situation which has come about in the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe following the demise of communism. The conquest of democratic freedoms needs to be translated into a positive process of social and economic reconstruction, but this is hampered by the incurable ethnic and national rivalries which threaten the disintegration of states like the USSR and Yugoslavia. These states defined themselves as federations, but in reality they were empires cemented together by the single party. There can be no federation without democracy. The passage from empire to federation has become a dangerous and tortured process because the territorial communities have no other concept of how to claim their independence than on the basis of the fatal nationalistic principle of self-determination. In fact, this leads to the disintegration of the state and of society itself, because no limit can be put on the claims of each, ever smaller, ethnic unit to possess its own army and its own currency. (Yet this absurdity is very hard to oppose because nowadays international relations are based on the dogma of the self-determination of nations, which is fundamental to all major contemporary international organizations, such as the UN). This involves implicit acceptance of the view that international order is regulated by relations of force and not of law. The mistake, for those who have understood the principles on which federalism is based, is obvious. The self-government of a political community by no means implies its absolute sovereignty. Interdependence is inevitable in the modern world, and must be managed by democratic government. Every territorial community must seek to obtain independence in those sectors, such as education, certain forms of taxation, and so on, which affect its inhabitants exclusively; but must agree to share, with the other territorial authorities involved, the control of those aspects of social life which concern them jointly. Self-government is possible only in the context of the federal state, which guarantees democratic relations between democratic nations. Independence is never an exclusively juridical matter, but political. Without common democratic institutions, small states are condemned to submit to the domination of the strongest.
In the last century, nationalistic movements justified themselves by their progressive character, which aimed for the emancipation of peoples and for the unification of the great territorial areas that were indispensable to industrial development (as in the case of Italian and German unification). Today, claiming to close one’s own political community off from interdependence and democratic dialogue with other communities can, in the final instance, only base itself on the demoniac principle of racism. For this reason, many disputes between nationalities, both in the USSR and in the Balkans, often end up in bloody conflicts, in which the enemies face each other with the ferocity of savages, but with the most modern and murderous instruments of war.
4. Federalism as a new political behaviour
In the Ventotene Manifesto the call for action ends with the exhortation: “Since it will be the moment for new action, it will also be the moment for new men, the Movement for a free and united Europe”. The “new” character of the federalist commitment compared to traditional political commitment remained, however, for a long time undefined within the MFE. Only after years of strong commitment did serious reflection begin on federalism as a new political behaviour.
Spinelli, in the course of his life, which from Ventotene onwards was entirely dedicated to the achievement of the federalist project, necessarily experienced some of the fundamental characteristics of the new federalist behaviour. According to Spinelli, politics is essentially the struggle for power. Since the European Federation is not simply an ideal to hold up for future generations, but a political objective which can and must be pursued “here and now”, the federalist commitment lies in a political struggle to achieve this new objective, and its opponents are those national politicians who are opposed to the federalist project. The novelty of the federalist commitment, for Spinelli, depended only on the novelty of the objective, not on the means to be used. There is no doubt that Spinelli considered himself a realistic politician, and that he saw absolutely no need to tackle the problem of a “new commitment” in politics. The only concrete problem which arose at the time of the MFE’s foundation was the choice between party and movement: for obvious reasons the second alternative prevailed. The MFE “does not seek to be an alternative” to the traditional political currents of thought, as is stated in the MFE’s Founding Thesis (1943). On the contrary, “it is from these movements that the MFE draws its support and it works to establish those aims which represent the highest values of our civilization”. The specific role of the MFE is only that of showing that “the creation of the European Federation is definitely the first task upon which the progressive European movements must concentrate all their energies”.
Spinelli’s political activity however is not identifiable with the life of the MFE. At the end of the Second World War, Spinelli thought that the political conditions for the federalist battle no longer existed, at least in the years immediately following the war, and he successfully entered Italian national politics, occupying some prestigious positions there. In the meantime, the MFE was kept alive by a group of young people. Only with the launch of the Marshall Plan did Spinelli realize the intrinsic potential of the new international situation for successfully relaunching the federalist project, and he then returned to involvement in the MFE. Later he frankly acknowledged his mistake. He had strayed onto the “wasteland of national politics”, abandoning the only ground – the MFE – on which it was possible to maintain an autonomous capacity of thought and action with regard to the national powers. From then on, Spinelli never again allowed himself to be lured away by the flattery of national power, even though he ventured to occupy positions of prestige (like that of Community Commissioner and European Parliamentarian), but only so as to develop his constituent strategy with greater likelihood of success.
The circumstances of the federalist struggle therefore dissuaded Spinelli from concerning himself with national power (he never sided with any national political force, because even when he accepted the candidature for the European Parliament he did it as an independent and declared his primary identity as a federalist). His basic political commitment lay in the struggle for the construction of a new power – the federal European Government – not in the conquest of an established power. Spinelli knew that Italy was lost without European unity and that therefore it was not worthwhile fighting for the power to govern Italy. In this sense, Spinelli was a political innovator, working outside national institutions and venturing alone into terra incognita (Spinelli’s entry into the European institutions depended on his personal decision alone, because at that moment the MFE was starting its politico-cultural reformation, and so Spinelli was obliged, because of the impossibility for the MFE to support his political line, to leave it once more).
The consciousness that federalism amounted to a new political behaviour made no progress in the MFE until the politico-cultural renewal promoted by Mario Albertini at the end of the fifties. The MFE freed itself completely from “followers of traditional political currents of thought” and founded its organization on militants who considered federalism their priority political commitment. Autonomy from the traditional parties became the new watchword of the federalists. For this reason, the organizational renewal was necessarily accompanied by cultural renewal.
Federalism had to be considered as a new political thinking, thus as a new political ideology which placed itself in a critical relationship with regard to traditional ideologies: liberalism, democracy and socialism. The traditional ideologies are in crisis because in the epoch of the supranational course of history, when the solution of major contemporary problems lies in the creation of supranational federations, to continue to conceive of the nation-state as the principal and exclusive context of political struggle leads to an implicit betrayal of the values professed. The liberals want freedom for the French, for the Germans, and so on, but invoke the iron laws of Realpolitik if that freedom is threatened in other countries; the socialists want to achieve the solidarity of the poor of their nation, but ignore the Third World (the welfare state only looks after national, not international, solidarity), and so on. Liberalism, democracy and socialism are empty words unless they apply to the whole human race. The internationalism invoked by traditional politics in reality does nothing to question the status quo, in other words the balance of power and the raison d’Etat. For this reason, national political life, being unable to achieve the ideal reality which it nonetheless loudly professes, constantly impoverishes itself and degenerates into pure power struggles. Only with federalism is it possible to conceive once more of a policy which has as its concrete goal the emancipation of mankind, that is the realization of freedom and justice for all men.
Federalism, like any ideological thinking – ideology, as Albertini defines it, means “active political thought” – presents different aspects: an aspect of value (peace), an aspect of structure (the federal state), and a historical-social aspect (federal society). The identification of peace as a fundamental value of federalism allows us to identify the cultural roots of modern federalism in the political thought of Kant, and to identify the relationship between federalism and the traditional ideologies, which certainly have not ignored the value of peace, but have always subordinated it to the realization of other objectives. Furthermore, in those years of cultural renewal, there was a deeper examination of that ideology which is opposed to the realization of federalism, in other words nationalism, defined by Albertini as “the ideology of the bureaucratic and centralized state”.
These theoretical acquisitions turned out to be crucial for forming the specific identity of the federalist activist. At the same time however, there developed in the MFE the awareness that in the federalist struggle, paradoxical as it may at first seem, “the power to make Europe does not exist” and, therefore, there is no power for federalists to conquer (as opposed to the revolutionaries of the past with their assaults on the Bastille or the Winter Palace). In fact careful consideration shows that no government, no party, and no politician, however important they may be, can autonomously take the decision to create European unity. The decision to found the European Federation must spring from the consensus of all the governments concerned, of the European Parliament, of the European parties and, in the last instance, from the citizens themselves. This is why the federalists are obliged to develop a political struggle in new terms and in extremely difficult conditions. They cannot avail themselves of the normal instruments of power: namely the vote, because they would become a party which struggles to govern that which already exists, instead of dedicating themselves to the foundation of the new; and violence, because a democratic battle is fought with the instruments of persuasion and reason suitable to the respective historical circumstances. For the federalists therefore the motivations of the pursuit of power or of personal interest which habitually accompany political commitment do not apply. Hamilton reminds us that the fundamental rule for the good functioning of institutions is that interest goes together with duty. In the long run, no institution survives when it requires of men that they dedicate an their energies solely to guarantee the “common good”, without their being able to derive any personal advantage in terms of money, prestige, and so on. This is how parliaments, parties, bureaucracies, universities, and so on, function. The federalists on the other hand have found in these long decades of struggle that it is possible to be involved in politics without occupying positions of power and, in this specific sense, have been pioneers of a new political behaviour.
This conception of the federalist commitment was recently brought into question, with the battle fought by Spinelli within the European Parliament for a constituent role, and then after his death, because of the Parliament’s evident inability to fight a vigorous battle for European democracy without an internal, relentless, federalist leadership. It was thus proposed (explicitly in the French MFE) that the federalists should compete in the European elections in order that at least a small federalist patrol should be present in the European Parliament.
This proposal is insidious. Although suggested by a clear and legitimate intention to advance the process of European unification, it does not take account of some fundamental objections. We should not confuse the role assumed by individuals (like Altiero Spinelli) who may also renounce their role in the MFE if others take on the responsibility, with the role of the MFE itself. The battle for the federation will not only be won in the European Parliament. The federalists’ struggle to bring the national parties, parliaments and governments to positions favourable to European democracy has been just as important in promoting European Federation as the federalist positions taken by the European Parliament. The MFE can only continue to fulfil the function of stimulus and connection between all the political forces if it does not enter into electoral competition with them. Moreover, for those who believe that the destiny of the federalist revolution lies in its world dimension, it is clear that the MFE will have an important role to play in giving a global orientation to the external policy of the European Federation. This would affect such important questions as enlargement to the East, relations with the USSR (now struggling in the face of enormous difficulties to achieve a federalist democracy), relations with the Middle East and the southern hemisphere, the democratic transformation of the UN, and so on. A united Europe will be a power and will try, like any other power in this world, to maintain and increase its powers, even when this conflicts with the aims of federalist policy. Nothing in the world is born perfect, and not even European federalism will be an exception. It will therefore be up to an autonomous force, external to the established European power, to intervene and fight to assert the political line of international solidarity and world unification.
Even in the new era of world politics it is thus true that for the federalists there is no power to be won and held. Nevertheless, they must be fully committed to the political struggle, because the traditional parties, until proved otherwise, are either not concerned with, or not capable of, fighting effectively for the construction of the “international state”.
5. The federalist militant and the reform of politics
The debate of a new political commitment is certainly not exhausted with a reflection on the past experience of the MFE. It is particularly important for drawing up resolutions as to its future, in other words on the rules which federalist activists should follow to optimize the organization of their political action in this new era of world politics. The MFE is like a small boat ploughing across a menacing sea: federalist militants must cope with the traditional means of political action, with the struggle for power as it exists. Politics is like the two-faced Janus: the search for the common good can only be realized by the struggle for power. This is why the pursuit of personal interests can easily be masked under the ideological cloak of seeking the collective interest.
This realistic observation must not however justify a moralistic refusal to undertake political commitment. Relying on its forces alone, the MFE can hope to modify the world situation of power only by pursuing its institutional objectives. But in the meantime, it can try to develop internal rules of behaviour which ensure greater democracy among its members. In fact, past experience shows that to a certain extent the MFE was able to commit itself in politics pre-eminently on the basis of its own moral and intellectual energies without recourse, partly through necessity and partly by choice, to the traditional instruments of party politics. And if we turn our eyes beyond the small world of federalist militantism, we must also note that the forms of political struggle have undergone profound changes from ancient times to the present day, particularly in countries with a more solid democratic tradition. In the days of Machiavelli few moral and juridical checks existed to stop the resolution of conflicts between opposing factions by means of the physical elimination of opponents. Today, in many civilized countries we have succeeded in channelling the struggle between parties into non-violent democratic rules. Democracy, in the final analysis, is the consensual respect for collective systems. For this reason its realization is progressive in time: it is inevitably associated with a process of individual self-education. “Real” democracy has not yet succeeded in eliminating the power of the great economic and political oligarchies, such that it can be maintained that the current democratic regimes are nothing more than a modern variant of aristocratic government, in other words a polyarchy. It is true, however, that the conflict between opposing factions is resolved ever more frequently by going to the polls, without bloodshed. It thus seems legitimate to state that it is possible to achieve progress even in political activity, which can therefore be further reformed to the point of guaranteeing a more effective realization of the common good.
This debate on the best form of civil government is as old as mankind. It has as its object the realization of the polis, a community of destiny inhabited by free and equal citizens, and every great current of political thought has tried to contribute to this ideal. Ultimately, the mobilizing force of revolutionary thought in the past – from the Enlightenment to Bolshevism – has been precisely the faith that important reforms can achieve a step forward for humanity towards emancipation from the slavery of economic need and political tyranny.
Federalism brings an original contribution to this debate. It clearly defines the final conditions for overcoming all politics governed by domination and power. This reflection necessitates reference to the political thought of Kant, who was the first to explore the relations between federalism, politics and morality. For Kant, the history of civilization begins with man’s emergence from the state of nature, in which all people are enemies and in which no form of associated life based on the rule of law is possible. This state of nature is a state of war. The civil constitution consists of the institution of a government which has the power to prevent the use of force in the regulation of controversies between individuals. Rather, in a society in which relations between individuals are regulated by a civil constitution, a progressive development of man’s natural dispositions can take place, as a result of the inevitable antagonism (the unsocial sociability) which will manifest itself among its members. “In this way”, according to Kant, “all man’s talent are gradually developed, his taste is cultured and through progressive enlightenment he begins to establish a way of thinking that can in time transform the crude natural capacity for moral discrimination into definite practical principles and thus transform a pathologically enforced agreement into a society and, finally, into a moral whole”.
These fruits of the civil constitution cannot however mature while the state remains part of an international society of states living in a situation of anarchy and barbarity, which forces every state to arm itself for its own defence against the real or potential threat of other states. The state of war is the necessary consequence of international anarchy. It is thus inevitable that, in such a situation, not even the civil constitution can be in accordance with the laws of morality and justice. “Enlisting men to kill or be killed appears to use them as mere machines and tools in the hands of another (the state), which cannot be reconciled with the rights of humanity over one’s own person”.
No civil constitution can thus call itself perfect until a pacific world constitution is instituted. It is possible to emerge from a state of international anarchy only by federation. Just as for individuals with regard to civil government, so states will have to give up their feral freedom in order to enter a state of international law, subordinating themselves to a federal government which has the power to prevent war. The world federation, in instituting universal peace, will allow mankind finally to be governed by reason and not by relations of force and by the conflict of interests. In the world of sovereign states, the law of the jungle prevails, the strongest is always right. Until the World Federation is instituted, the states will have to follow the rules of power politics: to keep their own power, to increase it where possible, and to act always to diminish opponents’ power (the divide et impera principle).
Anyone involved in politics in the world of sovereign states – which is the only political reality today – thus cannot help but encounter power and raison d’Etat. All people who engage in politics, whether they want to or not, find themselves having to follow Machiavelli’s advice to the Prince: act like a “fox” or a “lion” according to circumstances. The alternative is only a sterile moralism. To imagine that is possible to engage in politics on the basis of abstract moral precepts is pure hypocrisy. Kant recognizes this explicitly, precisely in relation to the realization of the federalist project. All attempts to show states the necessity of universal peace by appeal to reason, by means of naive projects for more or less perfect constitutions, have been in vain. “As for this way, all theoretical plans for the constitution of an international and cosmopolitan public law end up in vain and unattainable ideals”. This does not mean that one must renounce all political activity, leaving it in the hands of those who are only concerned with its utilitarian aspects. Kant was convinced that true politics is based on morality. But in order for this connection to emerge, the politician has to be able to associate the science of politics with the laws of morality. “A practice based on empirical principles of human nature, which does not disdain to draw instruction for its own norms from the way of the world, can alone hope to find a sure foundation for its political art”. Thus Kant defines the moral politician as he “who understands the principles of political art in such a way that they can co-exist with morality”.
The teaching of Kant is of great value to federalists. Kant not only affirms that only in World Federation is it possible for politics to be fully reconcilable with morality, at least in the sense that peoples and their governments will no longer be obliged to submit to the laws of the raison d’état; but he also maintains that for the moral politician it is possible and necessary to act henceforth to achieve that end. Herein lies the meaning of the definition that Mario Albertini, as far back as the Fifties, gave to the federalist militant: “A militant is one who takes the contradiction between facts and values as a personal commitment”.
This relationship between the ends and the means of federalist action did not however present itself as a problem within the Movement, at least in its early years. The only choice that the founders of the MFE had to make was between party and movement. From time to time this choice has been questioned, but without its suitability ever being seriously contested. Only after the election of the European Parliament by universal suffrage, and as a consequence of the effective constituent action undertaken by the MFE jointly with the European Parliament, did an intense debate develop among federalist militants on the best organizational form of the MFE. The MFE, with its constant commitment, has acquired the status of a political force, even if an anomalous one, because its power cannot be measured in any precise institutional sense (such as the number of seats in parliament won by a party), and because it almost disappears completely when the problem of European unity is reduced or else is entirely adopted by the traditional political forces. In fact, on closer inspection, the power of the MFE lies only in an effective influence on the parties and governments, an influence which the MFE exercises in the name of the European people. All the same, the problem arose of whether or not the organizational structure of the MFE should follow that of the traditional parties, in other words if the Movement should not rather assign itself internal rules which are based on the usual ones regulating the life of parties, which are occupied primarily with the pursuit of national power.
What is currently being proposed is to base the political struggle within the MFE on rules which allow the development of the maximum democracy among its militants, while at the same time seeking to maximize the effectiveness of action for a political force which does not aim to win any institutional power. In principle, the MFE should not blindly imitate the traditional parties, if it wants to continue to pursue its role of historical avant-garde. However, in its early years the MFE gave itself a statute which essentially followed the organizational model of any democratic party. Only subsequent experience has shown that this model cannot ensure real democracy within the Movement, by which we mean an equal participation of all militants, both in identifying the strategic line to be followed, and in the decision-making process. Traditional parties, in fact, use an organizational model in which the pursuit of these objectives is not achieved. This is by no means a novelty. Since the beginning of this century, Robert Michels and Max Weber denounced the oligarchic nature of political parties, both in bourgeois parties and in more recent social-democratic variants. In practice the leadership of the parties is composed of irremovable, charismatic leaders who represent the party to the masses and who dominate internal party life unchallenged. In practice, change of leadership in parties is much rarer than in public administration, whether in national or local government. We are thus still very far from the idea of democracy as common “government of the common good”, even in those political formations which claim to have as their primary goal the realization of democracy. Be that as it may, the immobility of the party leaders is matched by the immobility of party ideas. Politico-cultural debate, when it exists, is left to any willing intellectual who, lacking any internal office or duties, can speak without worrying about losing power. Those in power act on the basis of the fundamental Machiavellian rule, speaking only the truths of the “Palazzo”. Truth is revolutionary, because it shakes the foundations of power. Only in exceptional circumstances are the parties prepared to question themselves.
It is obvious that an avant-garde movement, on the contrary, must exploit to the full its role as a politico-cultural force. Therefore, in order to attempt to organize its own life in a more truly democratic manner, overcoming the oligarchic contradictions of traditional parties, the MFE has, thanks to a debate promoted by Mario Albertini, started some statutory reforms whose goal is to ensure the full participation of all MFE militants in the process of defining the political line and making decisions. An initial reform consisted of separating the decision-making organs from those of debate, ensuring organizational autonomy for the new organ, the Debate Commission, whose role is to promote freely an open discussion of the most important problems for the life of the MFE. The Debate Commission works also as the permanent link between young federalists and the MFE. The power aspect of politics emerges more easily when debate is not completely transparent: transparency and openness are therefore essential for all militants, even the youngest, so that they can feel able to put across their point of view without reservations. A debating forum such as this should tend to promote a common position within the MFE, in the last resort unanimity. A common way of thinking is a prerequisite of a strong collective will. It should not come as a surprise if in politics, as in natural sciences, the most sensible opinions in the end are shared by all. The natural sciences, by means of normal procedures of scientific debate, of verification and confutation, demonstrate that the truth, once established, is shared by all, or almost all, scientists. Politics too should tend to make itself a science. In politics, when possible, it is worthwhile applying the same procedures as the sciences and attempting to reach the widest possible consensus on the general strategic line, which is after all the point of view that feeds action, and on which any division among militants would cause a serious weakening of the Movement. In this way, progressively, federalism can become the science of the pacification of the mankind.
Of course, this reform is only the first step in the direction of an ever broader participation of all the militants in leading the Movement, in fact towards the achievement of a real collective leadership, which should therefore be founded on rules of conduct that are very different from those that favour the individual leadership of parties. To the extent that the political line emerges as a result of a common way of thinking, it is inevitable that the management of this line should be entrusted to organisms that are, as far as possible, interpreters and executors of a will which has already been broadly consolidated within the Movement. In this way it is conceivable to base the policy of the MFE increasingly on the force of reason and morality, which emerge in the search for the most effective policies to achieve federalist objectives.
For the moment, these new organizational directions are only the subject of debate, but the next few years should see them turned into reality. Here it need only be underlined that this debate is important not only for the internal life of the MFE, but for all democratic forces. Politics is in crisis everywhere, and everywhere alternatives are being sought to the forms of government that were conceived of in the centuries in which there was still an acute class struggle. Then, participation in the decision-making process was extremely limited. The division of society into classes inevitably imposed the distinction in politics between the ruling classes and those who were ruled. Today this dramatic situation is on the way to being overcome. The federalists know that power will not be really democratic, and thus will not cease to show its demonic side, until we have a World Federation, when all people-including the poorest inhabitants of a remote village in the South of the world can participate on an equal footing in the decision-making process. Only then will reason really be able to prevail over force, because no-one will suffer the imposition of a remote and extraneous government. It is a very distant target. This is why until this battle is won we must look to a more limited, but crucially important objective: to try ways of reaching real democracy at least within the MFE, our Common Home. It is true that even the federalists cannot help but struggle for power. But it is a question of the power to make a world government, and hence the power to abolish violence from the world of politics. In this sense, it can be affirmed, then, that for the federalists, politics means fighting to conquer the power to abolish power.





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