political revue


Year XL, 1998, Number 2 - Page 132



Spinelli Monnet Albertini
Alberto Jacometti, still on Ventotene in the weeks following the liberation, wrote that “Spinelli has the stuff of a founder of movements”.[1] Meanwhile, Spinelli was indeed inspiring the foundation of the MFE in Milano. But Spinelli was much more than a founder of movements. He was, in the words of Albertini, a Weberian political hero and, as Rossolillo has put it, what Heidegger called a “man of the work”:[2] of “the work” in a sense akin to great achievement.
Spinelli’s “work” is well known. But, for our purpose here, we need to recall the principal elements. When the French government proposed the European army in 1950, Spinelli immediately realised that such an army must be responsible to a federal government. He persuaded De Gasperi that a European Political Community was required; De Gasperi persuaded the other governments; and Spinelli worked with Spaak, then President of the Ad Hoc Assembly charged with the task of drafting the necessary treaty, to give birth to the EPC Treaty.[3] Albertini observed in his inaugural lecture for the academic year 1985-86 of the University of Pavia that but for ill fortune, the European army, and hence the European federation, could have been established thirty years before.[4] Spinelli, with his exceptional capacity for political analysis, had already written in his diary on the day after the death of Stalin that this “could also signify the end of the present attempt to unite Europe”.[5]
Spinelli’s reaction to this was the opposite of Monnet’s, who sought to relaunch the Community in the economic field. Spinelli vehemently criticised this approach and instead tried to lead the UEF on a “new course”, towards the Congress of the European People. But even in the MFE there was, again according to Spinelli’ s diary, “a notable discontent” against the new course on the part of men “with strong preoccupations in national political life”. Spinelli was nevertheless content that around him remained his “disciples, Badarau, Albertini, Da Milano... who have understood the meaning of the action desired by me” and, still in the diary, added that “the moment has now come for me, to draw the conclusions, and not even to begin to discuss with others in order to find the new path, but to map it out myself, alone. And may God help me.”[6]
This was the intrepid reaction of the political hero, of the “man of the work”. But the venture did not have the political success that Spinelli desired. The campaign formed a number of militants, above all Italians. But this was never the main purpose of Spinelli, who wanted political results in the short or medium term. Failing to obtain such results, and with the Community during that period dominated de Gaulle, Spinelli suspended his federalist political struggle to undertake a decade of mainly academic activity. Then he came to terms with the success of Monnet’s Community and sought to continue the federalist struggle as a member ofthe European Commission. There he learnt much about Community politics, but failed to convince the other Commissioners to engage in that struggle. The Commission was not the right place for Spinelli. He was a parliamentary rather than a governmental man. But that was precisely what was needed for his chef d’œvre, the Draft Treaty for the European Union.
After the launching of this crucial initiative at the famous dinner in the Crocodile restaurant, Bruno Visentini, who had been present, wrote to Spinelli reproving him for “having always been and having become more intolerant of the ideas of others”, and Albertini too wrote to Spinelli in the same vein. Spinelli’s observation in his diary was ‘‘‘I recognise that in discussion I employ an aggressive style which may appear intolerant. But I do not believe that I am intolerant. I hold to my opinion, but have always had the feeling that I pay attention to the ideas of others, and am ready enough to coopt them if I succeed in connecting them with mine. But if this has to be called intolerance, that means I am asked to abandon my ideas to demonstrate how much I understand those of others.”[7]
There is some truth in that. But it is a question of degree. It seems to me that in the past his readiness to coopt the ideas of others had been too limited, and that was a reason for his difficulty in working with others for any extended period. “It is now fifteen years that I have been striving to create a group of hamiltonian federalists”, he wrote in his diary on 10 January 1956, “and I am still a loner. Should I continue? And if so, in which direction?”[8] As we saw, Spinelli rapidly regained his courage and launched the original and ambitious campaign of the Congress of the European People. The words of Eric Weil that Rossolillo cited in The Federalist are clearly apt: the “man of the work” is “not only unique… but alone. It would be absurd for him to imagine himself in somebody else’s position, since there are no comparable places, nor beings… Men are nothing but means… the mass, the material of ‘the work’… the ‘man of the work’ cannot speak with the others, but only to the others.”[9] Of course Weil had defined an ideal type, not Spinelli. But Spinelli came closer to this type than anybody else I have known.
In creating the Draft Treaty in the European Parliament, however, Spinelli worked with great success with almost all the political groups and above all with his colleagues in the institutional committee. Finally, after the Parliament’s approval of the project, he persuaded many groups and political personalities, including President Mitterrand, to support it. The British MEP Derek Prag praised Spinelli’s ability to make the necessary compromises and to secure consensus on the project, even when the initial positions were apparently irreconcilable.[10] Perhaps Spinelli had finally, as the title of his volume of autobiography affirmed he had been trying to do, “become a wise man”.
The Draft Treaty had two consequences. The model of a Community transformed into a federal union, even if the institutions for foreign policy and security were to remain provisionally intergovernmental, has remained an inspiration for federalists; and the Treaty was, together with the single market project, one of the two sources of the Single European Act. The latter did not please Spinelli. But the anathema he cast on it as a “dead mouse” was not justified. The Single Act relaunched the process of uniting Europe, with the direct consequence of the Maastricht Treaty and hence of the enormously important single currency. But that process exemplified the federalism of Monnet, not that of Spinelli.
Spinelli was sure that Monnet “really does want to arrive at a federation”, even if he did not have “the least idea of what it means to make a constitution, and thinks that a few scraps of improvised ideas are sufficient”.[11] Monnet was not at all highly educated. Directly on leaving school he had become a businessman. So he learnt how to negotiate, organise, make his plan and carry it out; and, because he had also occupied high posts in the public service, including as deputy secretary general of the League of Nations, he had learnt how to persuade the governments.
Monnet launched the ECSC as the foundation for the construction of a federation. It is not right to call him a mere functionalist. He fully understood the need for European institutions independent of the national governments. He was, as Spinelli observed, not capable of an analysis of constitutional type. But he repeatedly affirmed that a supranational authority was required. It was his colleagues who inserted the Court and the parliamentary Assembly into the project, and he understood that they were proper elements for a Community of democratic countries. But for him, the independent executive was the fundamental element.
Monnet had also understood that the European army “touched on the core of national sovereignty”, so that “the federation of Europe would have to become an immediate objective”.[12] After the collapse of the project for the European Defence Community, Monnet, then President of the ECSC’s High Authority, said to his colleagues that what the ECSC was beginning to achieve “must be continued until it culminates in the United States of Europe”.[13] Monnet consequently left the High Authority and founded the Action Committee for the United States of Europe, with the aim of promoting a transfer of power on the part of all the participating countries “in favour of federal institutions”.[14] Since the members of the Committee were the leaders of almost all the democratic parties and trade unions and since Monnet was tireless in persuading and organising them, the Committee ensured the ratification of the Rome Treaties and the adoption of a number of successive steps towards European federation.
Monnet too, then, was a “man of the work”. He created something that “did not exist before”.[15] He was not a loner like Spinelli. Certainly, he took his decisions walking alone in the mountains. But he cultivated a vast network of friends among politicians, civil servants, journalists and businessmen throughout Europe and the United and he worked closely for many years with a few faithful collaborators such as Etienne Hirsch, Pierre Uri and Robert Triffin. Whereas Spinelli frequently wrote in his diary that he must “command” the MFE or the UEF, Monnet wrote: “What I sought from my colleagues was fidelity rather than obedience… No one has ever succeeded in making me do anything which I did not think desirable and useful… but I in turn have rarely obliged anyone to act against his will.”[16]
Our inheritance from Spinelli is the federalist movement, the influence of his ideas and of his example in the movement, and the Draft Treaty. That from Monnet is the European Community, now the Union, and his method of construction through steps in the federal direction which the governments are capable of accepting. It is not right to talk habitually, as many do, of small steps. The foundation of the ECSC was not a small step, nor that of the EEC. With the Single Act and the Maastricht Treaty, and thus the single market and the single currency together with the power of co-decision for the European Parliament, Delors too, following Monnet’s method, obtained very important results. Spinelli, who often criticised this method, nevertheless wrote in 1985: “Thanks to the European Community, our generation has seen the enduring dream of a free, united Europe beginning to become true”.[17] Monnet’s work was a construction that was not only original and important, but truly indispensable for the political civilisation of Europe.
Monnet and Spinelli.
Spinelli once said: “Monnet had the great merit of having built Europe and the great responsibility to have built it badly”.[18] He thus demonstrated the ambiguity of his relationship with the other “man of the work” in the uniting of Europe.
Monnet had sought out Spinelli after learning that he was “the author of the UEF’s memorandum no. 3 sent to the ministers”, in which Spinelli explained “the method to pursue in order to entrust to the Assembly of the Schuman Plan the constituent mandate”. Monnet said to him that it is “so rare… to encounter a person who thinks clearly… What we want is a revolution, and we must accomplish it with legal means, with statesmen who lack energy and any emotional commitment”. Spinelli observed that Monnet has “the dramatic and absolutely not rhetorical sense of the gravity of Europe’s situation, which completely coincides with my thinking”.[19]
Monnet then invited Spinelli to prepare his inaugural address as President of the High Authority in August 1952.[20] Spinelli analysed precisely the federal elements of the construction: the independent executive, responsible to the European Assembly; the Assembly, independent of the governments of the member states; the Court of Justice, independent of the member states’ courts; the direct relations with persons and enterprises, including the competence to impose levies on the latter.[21] Two days after Monnet had delivered the address, Spinelli wrote in his diary, not without a certain pride, that “the first supranational European authority was inaugurated. It was my address.”[22]
Monnet proposed to Spinelli that he stay to work at the High Authority, preparing Monnet’s “political speeches, which should, according to him, be the equivalent of Hamilton’s Federalist”. But Spinelli replied that he preferred “to wait a year to join the European institutions as a politician, rather than to enter them at once as an official”. Spinelli also helped Monnet to prepare his first speech to the Assembly (in fact the first political speech that Monnet had ever made![23]) then went his way. Two “men of the work” cannot work together.
Monnet and Spinelli went their separate ways also because their ideas were different. After the failure of the project for the European Defence Community, Spinelli tried to mobilise the people against the governments, while Monnet continued to believe, in Spinelli’s words, “in the capacity of the governments to relaunch the construction of Europe, through the results of the Messina conference”. But in Spinelli’s view this conference was the occasion of the “liquidation of Monnet”, who had the choice to “stand alongside me or disappear”.[24] Spinelli was mistaken. The governments relaunched the European construction. Monnet did not disappear. As Spinelli later said, Monnet had the great merit of having built Europe. It was, to be sure, as Spinelli also said, built badly. But without the agreement of the governments, Europe would not have been built at all. It is possible that the governments would have accepted a Europe that was built well, if Monnet had better understood “what it means to make a constitution”. But I am inclined to doubt it. In fact, the emerging realisation of the “dream of a free, united Europe”, affirmed by Spinelli, was the work of men of governmental type, above all Monnet. Spinelli’s enormous merit was to demonstrate the necessity of a good construction, effective and democratic, that is to say federal, and to indicate a method of constructing it by men of parliamentary type, like Spinelli himself.
Albertini and Spinelli.
In the 1950s, Spinelli had greatly appreciated Albertini. in 1954 Spinelli had proposed to him to “think of a federalist review”.[25] In 1958 he observed that “Albertini and Guderzo are thinking of a review. I have proposed to them to study it. But if they do not have the necessary creative force it will not be born.”[26] His scepticism was not justified: thirty years later Il Federalista remains in excellent health. I have already mentioned Spinelli’s satisfaction in seeing that his “disciple” Albertini had understood the sense of the action that Spinelli wanted, that is to say the campaign for the Congress of the European People. In the context of the campaign Spinelli had sent this “disciple” to Bolzano, where he had “scandalised the Bolzanesi a bit, but”, added Spinelli, “it is good that the MFE should contain a type of Saint Just”.[27] The disciple pur et dur pleased Spinelli well. But this purity was a manifestation of the “rationality as an absolute value, in certain cases exaggerated”, which, according to Gianni Merlini, explains “the difficult (but always intense) relationship that Mario Albertini had with Altiero Spinelli”.[28] What Spinelli called the “language of the day”, based on reason, was a language common to Albertini and Spinelli, but perhaps Spinelli’s more instinctive “language of the night” was not comprehensible to Albertini.[29]
The difficulty that Albertini and Spinelli had in understanding each other burst into the open in 1961, when Spinelli proposed that the federalists should “conquer some positions of power, throwing out the old politicians. It is necessary”, wrote Spinelli, “to concentrate for 4-5 years in three cities… to conquer them, as a model for future action”.[30] For Spinelli, this was a new federalist tactic for a new situation, that of Europe dominated by de Gaulle. For Albertini, it was a violation of a fundamental principle, that the federalists must concentrate on the struggle for European, not national power. Spinelli admitted in his diary that this new opposition placed him “in some embarrassment because it is the pure and abstract spinellism that is turned against me... I would not have expected to find, right in the middle of something so little ideological as federalism, such a pure expression of bordighism… of that extremism…”[31] Spinelli’s plan failed and he entered his academic decade, while in those years Albertini assured the continued life of the Movement, despite the “political divergence” that divided it for a time.[32] Spinelli did not tolerate opposition on the part of the “disciple”. The division between him and Albertini was profound. Albertini’s name does not appear in the published version of Spinelli’ s diary during the period from June 1962 up to March 1969.
Towards the end of that decade, there was a modest rapprochement between Spinelli and Albertini. Spinelli participated in the UEF’s Central Committee; he proposed a text, Albertini accepted it and the motion was carried unanimously.[33] But the relationship remained difficult through the 1970s. Spinelli certainly appreciated the letter from Albertini in 1974 that invited him to become President of the MFE, as well as Albertini’s robust response to the demand from some UEF sections that Spinelli should resign from offices in the UEF.[34] But Spinelli continued his harsh criticism of Albertini’s political choices.
When, in 1970, Albertini had caused the Italian federalists “to set about the study of a project for a federal European constitution”, Spinelli criticised his habit of making his moves “at the wrong moment”, affirming that he should follow “the plan of action suggested by me and adopted” by the central committee.[35] Perhaps one can detect in the language a certain vexation that Spinelli’s former disciple should continue to pursue a policy different from that of the master. But the difference was more fundamental. Spinelli concentrated on his own chosen political objective, while Albertini was constructing a strategy for the long term and an organisation to carry it out.
Albertini’s policy was not always “pure and abstract spinellism”. He was capable of pursuing a more monnetist policy. The single currency and the direct elections were for him valid intermediate objectives; and in 1978 he adopted the European Monetary System too as an intermediate objective towards the single currency. This choice was sharply criticised by Spinelli, on the grounds that it followed the heresy “of Werner and his chatter about monetary pre-union”, and he wrote that Albertini had “waged a battle for the EMS as if it were for the European federation”.[36] But I believe that Albertini was right. The EMS was a step towards the single currency, which in turn is a great stride towards federation.
After that incident, the relations between them improved. Spinelli praised Albertini’s initiative to establish a “permanent encounter’” between federalists and politicians of the Left, and also his “good speech” at the fortieth anniversary celebration of the Ventotene Manifesto.[37] Above all Spinelli appreciated Albertini’s support for the Draft Treaty. Perhaps, indeed, Spinelli, in this last period of his life, had become truly wise.
One last citation from Spinelli’s diary, this time of May 1956: “I threw out to Albertini the idea of constructing a ‘European federalist order’”.[38] I hope I may be forgiven if I do not appreciate the connotations of the Italian word ordine. But if Spinelli was suggesting that he create a group of people morally and intellectually committed to a cause, Albertini has indeed done so.
Amedeo Mortara recounts how Albertini, in the 1950s, “explained with passion to [a] group of young people the principles of hamiltonian federalist thought and demystified the false ideologies that seek to justify the nation-states.”[39] Albertini continued to pursue his pedagogic vocation up to the end and was “a great master” for the federalists of the MFE. His “passion for the logos, that is to say for reason;” his “absolute morality, including political morality”; his “total openness to dialogue”; his “absolute respect for the interlocutor”; his consistent fidelity to the MFE: all these qualities were perfectly adapted to the construction of a movement that has characteristics of an order.[40] The campaign for the direct elections, the great demonstration at Milan in support of the Draft Treaty in June 1985, the referendum of June 1989 when over 88 per cent of the voters approved the proposal for mandating the European Parliament to draw up a federal constitution: these bear witness to the strength of this movement.
There is a certain danger that a movement with characteristics of an order might become too doctrinaire. This was one of Spinelli’s criticisms of the “MFE of Albertini”. But Albertini, though a maestro of doctrine, was not doctrinaire. Thus this radical spinellist accepted a monnetist policy when that seemed to him reasonable. He explained that the MFE “should seek to promote… situations in which the conduct of national power itself may push the governments onto a slope on which sovereign power tends to slide from the nations to Europe…:”[41] that is to say, the MFE should promote such steps towards the goal of federation.
Death is not only an occasion of inexpressible grief but also a time for reflection. The conclusion of my modest reflection on Albertini is that he was ready to accept what is useful in the federalist methods of Spinelli and of Monnet, and to base his policy on this. I am sure that the MFE will continue to achieve great success if it follows this wise example.

[1] Citation in Altiero Spinelli, Come ho tentato di diventare saggio: Io, Ulisse, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1984, p. 315.
[2] Mario Albertini, “Altiero Spinelli, Hero of Reason”, in The Federalist, XXVIII (1986), p. 3; Francesco Rossolillo, “Spinelli, ‘Man ofthe Work’’’, in The Federalist, XXVI (1984), pp. 134-41.
[3] See Sergio Pistone, “Il ruolo di Altiero Spinelli nella genesi dell’Art. 38 della Comunità di Difesa e del progetto di Comunità Politica Europea”, in G. Trausch (ed.), La construction de l’Europe, du Plan Schumnan aux Traités de Rome: Projets et initiatives, déboires et échecs, Brussels, Bruylant, 1992.
[4] See Mario Albertini, “Europe on the Threshold of Union”, in The Federalist, XXVIII (1986), p. 26.
[5] Altiero Spinelli, Diario europeo: 1948-1969, edited by Edmondo Paolini, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1989, p. 168.
[6] Ibidem, pp. 290-92.
[7] Altiero Spinelli, Diario europeo: 1976-1986, edited by Edmondo Paolini, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1991, p. 508.
[8] Diario: 1948-1969, p. 284.
[9] Eric Weil, Logique de la philosophie, Paris, Librairie philosophique P. Vrin, 1974 (1st edn 1967), cited in Rossolillo, op.cit., pp. 139-40.
[10] Derek Prag MEP, “A New Framework”, in Facts, September/October 1982, London, European Movement, pp. 6-7.
[11] Diario: 1948-1969, p. 163.
[12] Jean Monnet, Memoirs, London, Collins, 1978, p. 343.
[13] Ibidem, p. 399.
[14] Action Committee for the United States of Europe: Statements 1955-1967, European Series No. 9, London, Chatham House and PEP, 1969, p. 11.
[15] Eric Weil, Logique de la philosophie, cited in Rossolillo, op. cit., p. 139.
[16] Jean Monnet, Memoirs, cit., p. 405.
[17] Altiero Spinelli, “Preface”, in Roland Bieber, Jean-Paul Jacqué, Jospeh H.H. Weiler (eds), An Ever Closer Union: A critical Analysis of the Draft Treaty Establishing the European Union, Brussels, Commission of the European Communities, 1985, p. 3.
[18] Interview with Spinelli, cited in Michael Burgess, Federalism and European Political Ideas, Influences and Strategies in the European Community, 1972-1987, London, Routledge, 1989, pp. 55-6.
[19] Diario: 1948-1969, p. 140.
[20] Ibidem, pp. 142-5.
[21] Jean Monnet, “Séance d’Installation de la Haute Autorité, Luxembourg”, in Les Etats-Unis d’Europe ont commencé, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1955, pp. 55-9.
[22] Diario: 1948-1969, p. 143.
[23] Memoirs, p. 382.
[24] Diario: 1948-1969, pp. 261, 269, 270.
[25] Ibidem, p. 202.
[26] Ibidem, p. 338.
[27] Ibidem, p. 301.
[28] Gianni Merlini, “Ricordi e testimonianze”, in L’Unità Europea, no. 275 (1997) p. 3.
[29] See Io, Ulisse, p. 309.
[30] Diario: 1948-1969, p. 416.
[31] Ibidem, p. 417.
[32] Teresa Caizzi, “Ricordi e testimonianze”, in L’Unità Europea, no. 275 (1997), p. 2.
[33] Diario: 1948-1969, pp. 552-3.
[34] Diario: 1970-1976, pp. 727, 946.
[35] Ibidem, pp. 39-40.
[36] Altiero Spinelli, Diario europeo: 1976-1986, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1992, pp. 240-1.
[37] Ibidem, pp. 548, 670.
[38] Diario: 1948-1969, p. 297.
[39] Amedeo Mortara, L’Unità Europea, no. 275 (1997), p. 3.
[40] These citations are taken from the contributions of Teresa Caizzi, Gianni Merlini and Francesco Rossolillo in L’Unità Europea, no. 275 (1997).
[41] Mario Albertini, “L’aspetto strategico della nostra lotta”, editorial of L’Unità Europea, no. 205 (March 1991), reprinted in L’Unità Europea, no. 275 (1997), pp. 4-5.



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