Year XXIX, 1987, Number 2, Page 97
Recent Developments in Federalist Theory
Federalism, which was born as the theory of a form of government intended to solve the problems of an isolated case, the formation of the United States of America, and subsequently other societies with a marginal role in world politics such as Switzerland, Canada and Australia, has gradually extended its reach, and has now become a movement with world dimensions. More than a third of mankind lives in states with constitutions that are defined as federal and there are movements for continental unification throughout the world. The UN is a symbol of the world trend towards unity and in old nation-states regional and local movements have arisen demanding autonomy. These processes are expressions of the tendency to go beyond the unitary state model both at a higher and lower level by creating new supranational and infranational levels of government.
In an effort to understand and guide these processes, federal theory has developed in new directions, demonstrating its ability to provide a new interpretation of contemporary history, to generate criteria on which to base thinking about the future of mankind in a new way, to inspire new political behaviour and to offer a reply both to the question of a better quality of life in the urban and natural environment, through the territorial division of power and democratic global and articulated planning, and the problems of peace and general and controlled disarmament through the transformation of the UN into a world system of federal government. These new theoretical developments have matured in line with the transformations that have arisen in contemporary society in the age of World Wars and in particular since the end of the Second World War.
Let us review some of the most significant changes, which have occurred in the contemporary world, for which federalist theory, by renewing itself, acts as an interpreter.
1. The constitutional evolution of the federations.
The need to adapt old institutional mechanisms to political, economic and social changes in contemporary society has brought to light two general trends towards which federal institutions are developing.
The first is the tendency to centralize power in federal governments which is the consequence of the concomitant pressure of two factors, one socioeconomic, and one political. The socioeconomic factor is the development of the Industrial Revolution, which has multiplied production and trade relationships beyond the confines of the member states, transforming a set of prevalently agricultural, mutually isolated communities into an economic and social system whose parts are increasingly more interdependent. Federal governments have taken up the leadership of this process every where, a process that requires the extension of public intervention (construction and management of major public works, such as railways, motorways, monetary policy, industrial policy, social policy, environmental protection and so on), removing vast sectors of the economy and society from member states’ control.
The political factor is the increasing pressure towards centralization exerted by international relations. After the World Wars and the development of a world system of states there are no longer any isolated political areas sheltered from power relationships.
The pressures deriving from this factor (which is more critical in the United States because of the great political and military responsibilities that the US have undertaken since the end of the Second World War, but which is active in all federal states) have led to the formation of a powerful bureaucratic and military apparatus serving the security and power requirements of central governments.
When public intervention was extended to social, economic and military sectors, there was a great increase in public spending, which triggered off a harsh struggle between federal and regional governments to gain scarce financial resources. This struggle was resolved by the fact that federal governments prevailed and with a significant decline in financial independence (and hence political independence) of regional governments. The institutional and political instrument by which this centralizing tendency arose were the grants in aid or subsidies (whose concession was often subordinated to compliance with precise conditions) that regional governments received from federal governments to finance their economic and social development programmes.
The second trend which arose in the evolution of federal constitutions was the development of co-operation between the two levels of government between which power is divided in federations. This trend is also a consequence of the Industrial Revolution, and the process of economic and social integration between the member states of the federations and the emergence of new objectives in the states’ action such as the welfare state and new instruments, such as planning, with which to pursue them.
This second trend has profoundly transformed the functioning of federal states, which were originally conceived on the basis of the model of the minimal state, i.e. a state in which public powers intervened as little as possible in economic and social processes and which did not disturb the relationships among regional governments and between them and the federal government. Regional governments were intended to operate in separate spheres that were relatively isolated from each other. This situation no longer exists in any industrial society.
However, an extension of matters under the state’s control does not necessarily bring about an increase only in the powers of the central government since, in federal states, this process can also affect regional governments. To prevent this increased capacity for intervention from generating potentially destructive conflicts because of the delicate constitutional equilibria in federal states, growing co-operation has arisen everywhere between federal and regional governments. In essence, a growing number of political objectives require co-ordinated intervention of both levels of government and a joint commitment to accomplish them. Precisely in those sectors in which public intervention has developed most (such as control of the economy and social policy), member states have kept a fair degree of political autonomy by participating in joint programmes with the federal government.
The rise of co-operative federalism thus marks the shift from a distribution of powers between the two levels of government reflecting the formerly prevailing criterion of exclusive jurisdiction to a model based on concurrent jurisdiction. In classic federalism the division of powers was organized according to the scheme laid down in the tenth amendment of the United States’ Constitution, which states that matters not expressly attributed to federal government are conferred on the member states’ governments. In practice, all jurisdiction was exclusive with the single though major exception of taxation. With co-operative federalism the trend is towards eliminating all exclusive jurisdiction. All jurisdiction must tend to become concurrent.
Among the numerous institutional innovations which are an expression of the affirmation of co-operative federalism, it is appropriate to mention the Loan Council, an institution for compulsory co-operation which is part of the 1929 Australian Constitution. This is a body which brings together a representative of the federal government (who has two votes) and the representatives of the governments of the six states (who each have one vote). It is, however, independent of these centres of power in that the federal government has a strong but non-dominant position. It has the power to decide the size of the debt at both levels of government and is thus an exemplary instrument to co-ordinate fiscal policies. What distinguishes this body from many other co-operative bodies, which have been formed in all federations, is that it possesses real decision-making powers, while the other bodies have no constitutional relevance and only have consultative powers. This includes the conferences which bring together heads of federal and regional governments.
2. The diffusion of federal constitutions in the Third World.
One of the most significant aspects of the contemporary world is the diffusion of the principles of federalism above all in numerous Third World countries involved in the national liberation movement. Some Latin American countries were influenced by the US federal model (such as Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina), when they became independent states in the last century. They were joined in postwar years by other great states in Asia and Africa (India, Pakistan, Nigeria). Because of the great territorial dimensions and/or the profound social differences existing within their territory, many states which became independent have recently adopted a few features of the federal system in their constitutions in response to the need to maintain political unity.
The distinction between federal constitution and federal government made by Wheare is useful when judging the structure of these states, since it is an application of the distinction between federal constitution in a formal and material sense: “A country may have a federal constitution, but in practice it may work that constitution in such a way that its government is not federal. Or a country with a non-federal constitution may work it in such a way that it provides an example of federal government”. The federations mentioned above belong to the first category. The predominant problem is to get the state authority to prevail over the territorial communities and the social groups that make them up.
We may thus claim that federalism should be considered in these countries as the first stage in the construction of a unitary state; the same claim was made by those who drew up the USSR’s Constitution, which may rightly be considered the first in a series of federations formed in the twentieth century in underdeveloped countries. Moreover, the nature of the institutional Revolution in the USSR is instructive in giving us abetter understanding of the meaning of federalism in our times. Sixty years after the October Revolution, despite the efforts of a constant centralizing policy, the USSR is a “highly decentralized state” as Wheare recently wrote and, despite great Russian imperialism, the minor nationalities have amazing vitality.
On the basis of this experience it may be argued that the constitution of the unitary state is dictated by the requirements of the Industrial Revolution and international security, even though the centralization of power remains an impossible objective to achieve in states with huge dimensions and a multinational character. It is therefore reasonable to presume that the seeds of federalism present in many recently formed states will germinate when the domestic and international conditions for their evolution have ripened.
3. Crisis in the nation-state and new trends in state and international organization.
The crisis in the political formula of the nation-state and the tendency to form multi-state and multinational political units (USA, USSR, China, India and so on), international world organizations (UN) and continental structures (EEC, CMEA, Arab World, South-East Asia, Latin America) are an expression of the general direction in which the construction of the state and international organization is developing in our times, a direction characterized by the emergence of federalist elements. It shows, on the one hand, how the protagonists of world politics are no longer nations, but political formations consisting of a number of nations, and, on the other hand, it shows how no state is able to assume a decisive role in the world system of states, that has grown up on the ruins of the European system, without assuming a Continental dimension.
This tendency, which has arisen because of the internationalization of the productive process and the formation of the world system of states, has contributed to the growing awareness that the nation-state is no longer a sufficient basis for guaranteeing either economic development or political independence in the contemporary world.
In particular, reflection on the process of European unification has encouraged considerable maturation as regards the deeper aspects of federalist theory. The search for European unity represents the most consistent attempt to overcome the political formula of the nation-state, which has led to extreme consequences as regards compressing mankind into closed, uniform, hostile and belligerent communities, a principle which is radically incompatible with the deepest requirements of the contemporary world. Moreover, we need to consider the difficulties encountered by the attempt to overcome the so far insurmountable divisions between nations consolidated by centuries of independent life as states and the absolute novelty of the attempt to find a formula which ensures peaceful coexistence between nation-states, an undertaking which has no precedents in history. We may therefore conclude that the problem of European unification requires the creation of an entirely new form of state with completely new political and social contents, of which the federations of the past are only a pallid antecedent. The search for new solutions to the problem of associating independent states in a stable way is a challenge for reason and a powerful stimulus to the renewal of federalist theory.
4. Crisis in the nation-state and regional and local self-government.
The crisis in the nation-state is also apparent in the opposite direction, i.e. in movements for regional and local self-government. In other words, there is a tendency to transcend the centralizing and authoritarian aspects of the nation-state. In particular, in advanced industrial societies experiencing the scientific revolution, which is now giving a new form to society and economy, the conditions required to develop a pluralist and decentralized form of state organization and to renew the structures of classical federalism in the light of the problems of post-industrial society are beginning to emerge.
5. The crisis in the institutional model.
The old conception of federalism, taken as a purely institutional theory, has proved to be entirely inadequate in facing up to the changes sketched above. Apart from the consideration that the classic federalist model has undergone changes in those states where it developed, the fact remains that conceiving federalism simply as a technique of organization of political power means making it subservient to the values of the past (liberal, democratic or socialist) and hence considering it as subordinate to traditional political ideologies. In actual fact, federalism’s development has closely followed the transformations that have occurred in the course of contemporary history and has become enriched with new categories of analysis. Its meaning has undergone continual evolution and deepening in response to the ever-growing problems raised by the historical process. The meaning behind this development is the progressive affirmation of the theoretical autonomy of federalism with regard to other political ideologies.
The objective of this article is to examine four theoretical models which are in fact four attempts to reformulate and widen the traditional definition, which was based on a purely institutional approach to federalism.
6. New federalism.
The expression “new federalism” refers to a wide body of literature which has made a contribution to the study of the most recent constitutional developments of federal states. As we have seen, the tendencies towards centralization and co-operation represent the most significant developments in contemporary federal institutions.
As regards the first tendency, this is generally recognized by researchers in federal institutions. They accept both the socioeconomic and political causes, which have brought it about. However, it is appropriate to point out that in the United States a theory formulated by Adolf A. Berle, Jr. has been successful. This theory holds that the centralizing drive promoted by the federal government is balanced out by the force applied by large multinational companies. Thus a new form of “economic federalism” develops, characterized by the emergence of strong concentrations of economic power replacing political pluralism, which is in decline because of the loss of autonomy of federated states. Against this view we must, however, object that economic power groups are not able to create constitutional equilibria, but have to adapt to already existing equilibria. They exercise their pressure on governments and parliaments to obtain decisions which are favourable to them. And if power is centralized, their interest is directed towards central power, in particular. The development of huge companies is not therefore an alternative to the centralization of federal states, but rather a factor which reinforces this tendency.
Already in The Federalist we find the affirmation that social equilibria are not sufficient to guarantee a constitutional order. Indeed the conflict between economic and social interests tends to upset this order. Every interest group struggles to wrest its demands from political power, though this is evidently in contrast with the general interest. The specific role of political power is to achieve mediation between demands coming from the various parts of society, making the general will prevail over particular wills.
This theory thus has the function of masking the true character of changes such as the tendency towards centralization which has profoundly changed the nature of federal institutions.
The second tendency which has changed federal institutions is the rise of co-operative federalism. Most of the authors who have studied this aspect agree that it coexists with a tendency towards centralization.
The recognition of this tendency has lead scholars of federal institutions to distinguish between two phases in the history of these institutions. On the one hand, classical constitutional federalism has a dualistic nature, in that federal government and the government of the states operate in two separate spheres without reciprocal interference on the basis of a rigid division in powers. Moreover, with the extension of the state’s powers of intervention following the development of the Industrial Revolution, cooperative federalism has been strengthened. Its essential features have been defined in terms of the relationships between the two levels of government and the extension of concurrent jurisdiction. Researchers claim that the rise of this new form of organization of the federal state has not substantially modified the nature of federal institutions, which, according to Wheare, are defined in terms of the characteristics of independence and co-ordination between the two levels of government. If, on the one hand, the fact that no level of government is independent from the other is deeply rooted in the federal structure, on the other hand, independence is not incompatible with a strong interdependence between the two levels of government.
The experience of co-operative federalism has made us aware that it is not possible to achieve any coexistence between two levels of government territorially separated from each other within the state itself without adequate co-ordination. In an industrial society, in which the tasks of the state have increased enormously, co-operation between federal government and regional governments is indispensable in the functioning of federal institutions.
From these considerations emerges the requirement for a definition of federal institutions which includes the notions of dualistic federalism and co-operative federalism. The definition formulated by Maurice J.C. Vile provides an answer: “Federalism is a system of government in which central and regional authorities are linked in a mutually interdependent political relationship; in this system a balance is maintained such that neither level of government becomes dominant to the extent that it can dictate the decisions of the other, but each can influence, bargain with, and persuade the other”.
7. Federalism as a process.
Carl J. Friedrich has developed a model of federalism construed as a process. He considers the purely institutional definition of federalism as being reductive, i.e. taken as the theory of a state form. He contrasts the institutional type of approach of classical federalism defined as “static and formalistic”, which was interested, in particular, in problems of sovereignty, distribution of powers and the structure of the institutions, with the dynamic type of approach.
From the methodological standpoint, Friedrich constructs his federalist theory, privileging political and social change and the historical development of federal relationships at the expense of the structural and institutional aspects. Every particular variety of federal organization represents a stage in the development of a political and social reality in continuous evolution. What distinguishes federalism, according to Friedrich, is the requirement of maintaining unity in diversity in a process of continuous reciprocal adaptation of the common organization and the component parts, which avoids the opposing dangers of prevailing centralizing tendencies, (which would transform the federalist system into a unitary state), and separatist tendencies (which would split up the federation). It is necessary to add that Friedrich extends the field of application of federalism from the sphere of the state to that of nongovernmental organizations, such as parties, unions, interest groups and churches.
He defines the federation as “a union of groups, united by one or more common objectives, rooted in common values, interests, or beliefs, but retaining their distinctive group character for other purposes”. This is a definition which may be applied both to a federal state, and to an alliance of states, a confederation or an association of groups. Federalism may be the result of two different processes: integration or differentiation. In the first, two or more political communities unite to solve common problems together, each maintaining their independence from each other. In the second, a political community with a unitary structure undergoes a process of differentiation, giving rise to a set of independent political entities, which, however, do not question the unity of the overall political framework.
But the life of every federation is the result of the permanent tension between the unitary tendency and the pluralistic tendency. Both in the process of integration and the process of differentiation, the basic objective of federalism is to limit centralized power, by dividing it up. In this case the birth of a federal government limits the powers of the states who participate in the federative process, in the second case the formation of independent political communities within a unitary state limits the power of central government.
Friedrich’s objective is to construct the notion of federalism as transcending the traditional conception of the sovereign unitary state. His dynamic approach is in fact designed to highlight the tendency of federative processes to overcome the traditional structures of the unitary state both upwards and downwards, through the creation of autonomous communities beyond and within this political formation.
Developing this reasoning, the author adds that “no sovereignty can exist in a federal system; autonomy and sovereignty exclude each other in such a political order. To speak of the transfer of a part of the sovereignty is to deny the idea of sovereignty which since Bodin has meant indivisibility. No one has the ‘last word’. The idea of a compact is inherent in federalism, and the ‘constituent power’, which makes the compact, takes the place of the sovereign”. Moreover, the distinction between federation and confederation is defined as “the quintessence of the static and formalistic approach”.
In the dynamic model proposed by Friedrich, the confederation is conceived as a precise stage in the federative process and it does not appear to be something which is qualitatively different from the federation, but simply a weaker form of political organization. A mistaken conclusion of this theory is the definition of the result of the process of transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth as an example of federation.
Friedrich’s basic theses seem to my mind to confirm the inadequacy of a purely institutional approach in the study of federalism. It is not, in fact, possible to understand federal institutions without knowing the historical and social processes which feed it. When Friedrich insists on the two directions of the federative process, he gives us categories which make it possible to capture the real processes which are transforming contemporary society: the tendency to transcend the nation-state and the formation of states or international organizations of continental and subcontinental dimensions and the tendency to decentralize power and regional and local self-government within old unitary states.
However, he does not go so far as to identify the deep roots of these processes which consist, as Mario Albertini has pointed out, in overcoming antagonisms between nations and classes. This explains the marginal role of federal experiences in the past and the current topicality of federalism in the contemporary world and at the same time makes it possible to highlight the profound characteristics of federalist social behaviour: the cosmopolitan dimension and the community dimension. The first stresses the connection between the processes of political unification of continents and the tendency to unify the world and to achieve peace with the creation of a World federation. The second dimension reveals the link existing between movements for regional and local self-government and the tendency to experiment new forms of political and social organization within the grass-roots communities: direct democracy and self-management.
Once we have clarified the limits to a purely institutional approach, it is still necessary to reflect on the relationships existing between institutions and the historical process. In general terms, institutions are a product of the historical process (for example, without the Industrial Revolution representative democracy is unthinkable). Moreover, institutions are an indispensable condition for the existence of the historical process itself. Using figurative language we may say they are like the banks of a river within which the historical and social processes flow. Were it not contained within these banks, the drift of the current would be lost and history would have no sense, in the dual acceptance of this term: direction and meaning. The institutions are thus instruments by means of which men try to control history. This means that institutions have “relative autonomy” with regard to the historical process, that is they tend to channel the new processes along old riverbeds, but “in the final instance” they are forced to bend to the will of history. In other words, when the institutions are no longer suited to containing new processes, the latter burst their banks and create new ones, that fall in line with the changes in history.
Above I used a few expressions in inverted commas which are found in some letters written late in his life by Engels which have a methodological content, in which it is stated that “according to the materialistic conception of history the factor which in the final instance is decisive in history is the production and reproduction of real life”. On the other hand, “the state… according to the relative autonomy which is inherent in it… reacts in its turn to the conditions and the course of production”.
This means that, while the rather insignificant changes in the mode of production do not have any repercussion on political institutions, the great changes in the mode of production upset political structures and force them to fall into line with the mode of production. The relationship between productive structure and political superstructure is, according to Engels’ formula, a “reciprocal action between two unequal forces”, in which the role of superstructure is to accelerate the historical process (when there is a “correspondence” between the base and the superstructure) or to hamper it (when this “correspondence” does not exist).
The institutional dimension thus conserves its irreplaceable function as a criterion for assessing the nature and trends of federative processes. Defining the structure of a federation is necessary to help us learn when a federative process has produced a federation, to establish whether the process is federative in nature, and, if so, to measure the progress made as regards creating a federation. The institutional notion of a federation makes it possible to affirm, for example, that the Commonwealth is not a federation, nor is there any appreciable sign that it is becoming a federation. Moreover, it should be stressed that the confederation is not always a stage in a process that leads to the federation. History is littered with examples of confederations which dissolved before they reached the stage of a federation.
There can be no doubt, moreover, that federal organization is incompatible with the traditional conception of indivisible sovereignty. However, the requirement of an authority which ultimately imposes its decision on the entire territory of the state is a basic achievement for the modern state. The novelty of the federal state consists in the fact that the distribution of power is organized in such a way that certain centres of power have the last word on certain matters, others on others, without hierarchical relationships being established between the various sovereign powers. We should also remember that in all federations there is an authority with ultimate powers of decision, in the case of conflict between the independent governments among whom power is divided. The courts have the power to annul laws which do not comply with the constitution and to order all powers to comply with the constitution.
As regards the extension of the field of application of federalism from the state field and the organization of the state to non-governmental organizations, such as parties, unions, interest groups and churches, it should be noted that they are organizations subordinated to the state’s sovereignty. Internally speaking, these organizations tend to be modelled on the state’s structure. This is natural because the role of the parties is to control the government and the role of pressure groups is to influence the government’s decisions. Hence, these groups will take on a federal structure only in the case that the state has a federal structure. When they operate at an international level, they can only be subordinated to the raison d’état of the state to which they belong and they undergo the logic of power relationships which dominate international relations, as the experience of the workers’ internationals and multinational corporations has shown.
8. Integral federalism.
In the dark years of the uncontrasted domination of nationalism, a federalist group grew up around the review L’Ordre nouveau published in Paris from 1931 to 1938. This group continued to be active even in the postwar years in France in particular, whose most representative exponents were Robert Aron, Arnaud Dandieu, Alexandre Marc and Denis de Rougemont. They developed an “integral” conception, i.e. not just an institutional but also a social, economic and philosophical conception of federalism.
Integral federalism is an overall response to the problems of our times and is based on an overall assessment of the contemporary world: the worldwide crisis of our civilization. This means that all the institutions which govern our society are antiquated and not in tune with the realities of today’s world, which is in rapid transformation. Contemporary man is dominated and oppressed by great mass organizations (huge corporations, political parties, unions, bureaucratic apparatus, nation-states), in which social relationships are depersonalized. The breakdown of social solidarity arising from the violent clashes between the great mass organizations is matched by the anarchy created by state sovereignties at an international level. Both have contributed to the abnormal birth of centralized state power and its bureaucratic and military apparatus.
Underlying this crisis there is an individualistic culture, whose roots lie in Jacobinism and which has pulverized society, crushed all intermediate bodies and laid the bases for contemporary Fascist and Communist totalitarianism. Following Tocqueville’s and Proudhon’s analyses, integral federalism criticizes the centralizing character of the state which emerged from the French Revolution. By conceding no space for intermediate organizations between the individual and the state, this type of state has a potentially authoritarian character.
The federalist alternative is a complete reversal of this situation. Aron and Marc define federalism as “the political conception which makes it possible to reconcile individual freedom and the need for collective organization” which “facilitates the existence of free human communities which manage to associate without losing their individual characteristics”. In practice, federalism is a form of political organization which is capable of reconciling liberty and authority, unity and diversity.
When federalism is defined in such generic terms, traces of it can be found in every age, even “from those uncertain origins of history in which human communities… grouped our distant forebears into units animated by the same spirit and the same faith, but divided up without effort into independent tribes and clans with free articulations”. Thus Marc finds elements of federalism in ancient Greece, Rome, among barbarian peoples, in feudalism and in the Common age. The struggle between federalism and centralism is essentially the same as that which opposed the Celtic tribes to the Roman Empire.
In this vision, nationalism is the fruit of a “mistaken choice”. European states should have had the freedom to organize themselves both as federations and as centralised units. The fact that the second trend triumphed shows that the “easier choice” prevailed. But federalism became aware of itself in the 19th century. Only then, thanks in particular to Proudhon’s contribution, did integral federalism acquire its first theoretical formulation. Federalism is a general doctrine which relates to a wider sphere than politics. According to Marc, it is a “philosophy capable of re-establishing communication between man and nature, between me, you and us, between man and his destiny, between man and his mystery. Philosophy, anthropology, sociology, law, political science: all is held and federalism reveals its capacity to rejuvenate and renew this totality”. It is not possible here to examine the philosophical principles of integral federalism: personalism, a conception of man which proposes the reconciliation between individual autonomy and the infinite diversity of personal vocations with community solidarity, or the “dialectic of unchaining”, a new conception of open dialectic which does not suppress oppositions, but promotes a synthesis of tensions and polarities. I shall leave aside these philosophical aspects of integral federalism restricting my analysis to the political, economic and social aspects. The latter can be analysed deeply with the conceptual schemes developed by social sciences, which I have used in this article for the reconstruction of federalist thought.
The proposal to build a federalist society is based, according to this school, on the application of four principles: autonomy, co-operation, subsidiariness and participation.
The application of the principle of autonomy to all the territorial communities (communes, regions etc.) and functional communities (grass-roots organization of political parties, trade unions, and companies’ production units etc.) make it possible for these communities to achieve self-government, so that the decisions which relate to the community as a whole are taken in keeping with individuals’ concrete needs. The system of autonomies thus makes it possible to overcome the centralized and authoritarian model of the unitary state...
Co-operation between these communities will make it possible for them not to remain isolated, but collaborate with each other to resolve common problems.
Thanks to the principle of subsidiariness, a distribution of power can be achieved which makes it possible to resolve each problem at a lower level, thus leading to decisions which are the closest possible to those of the interested parties.
Finally, the principle of participation makes it possible to introduce democratic principles in that plurality of autonomous communities, arranged at various levels and co-ordinated with each other, to which men belong and thus to approach the ideal of a society in which men are the masters of their destiny.
All the specific solutions are derived from these four principles. In contrast with the closed, centralized model of the unitary state, integral federalism emphasizes individuals’ membership of a plurality of social groups, without anybody being privileged at the expense of others. In this respect, integral federalism’s theoreticians criticize democratic centralism, as it allows people’s participation in the decision-making process only through the channel of national parliaments, and the party system, which is eager to entrust a monopolistic representation of public opinion to professional politicians, who control closed, oligarchic, and bureaucratic organizations.
In the federal system, democratic participation, which occurs mainly in the independent grass-roots communities, makes it possible to reduce the central government to a secondary role. One of the most characteristic aspects of integral federalism is the fact that the road to renewal of democracy can be identified not only in the system of autonomies — whose essential features I have illustrated above — but in the organization of a new form of social and economic representation alongside territorially based political representation and similarly organized at all levels from the local level to the European one. The reform of bicameralism, proposed by Aron and Marc in Les Principes du fédéralisme, gives the lower chamber elected by universal suffrage the function of controlling the executive, while the upper chamber made up of the representatives of regional and local communities and economic and social interests has legislative power.
These considerations lead us to deal with the economic and social aspects of integral federalism. Its characteristics may be defined in opposition to capitalism and collectivism. Inspired by Proudhon, integral federalists do not question the principle of private ownership of the means of production, even though they claim that the distortions should be corrected. It is not, however, possible, nor is it desirable, to abolish private ownership. If anything, this should be generalized. They support the idea of co-operatives in agriculture and workers’ participation in company management in industry.
As regards planning, this should be based on the participation of regional and local bodies, unions, professional groups and companies (even financially speaking), on their contractual co-operation and on the territorial articulation in line with the federal scheme of distribution of powers. Moreover, planning operates with different instruments: in essential goods (heavy industry, agriculture, housing, basic services, clothing, health and education) it is compulsory, whereas it is optional in consumer goods and non-essential services.
Finally, we should recall two proposals designed to encourage the democratization of the economy. The “guaranteed social minimum”, i.e. a minimum wage which gives everybody the chance to satisfy their basic needs, and general compulsory “civilian service” which distributes the least qualified and least gratifying jobs not removed by automation among all the population and makes it possible to feed the fund that ensures the “guaranteed social minimum” with adequate resources.
At this stage we can make an overall assessment of integral federalism. Although with the limits that we shall see, this school has the merit of having encouraged criticism of the authoritarian aspects of the structure of the nation-state, and the ideology that sustains it, and a reflection of the overall nature of federalism as an alternative to the crisis of our age.
However, the definition of federalism that it proposes is so generic and lacking in any specific historical identity that traces of it can be found in all ages and in just about any country. One of the unacceptable consequences of this approach is that, for example, the affirmation of the political model of the nation-state is the result of an error and thus the federalist alternative could have asserted itself if men had chosen it in the age of the rise of the nation-state. In actual fact, democratic centralism was the instrument which made it possible for the supporters of the idea of the nation to free individuals from the old local political and economic institutions which gave privileges to the old classes that dominated the feudal age. Provincial autonomies in the ancien régime did not correspond only to the privileges of the local dignitaries jealous of their prerogatives, but also the parasitic interests of the worker members of the corporations, who constituted a surviving vestige of the feudal system. As compared with this system, democratic centralism undoubtedly represents a step forward and the premise for reconstructing regional and local autonomies in democratic terms. In such a historical context, however, the supporters of federalism (such as the Girondists during the French revolution) ended up by being confused with the defenders of particularism and feudal privileges and played an objectively counter-revolutionary role.
As regards the political and institutional model, the proposal to transform the upper chambers into economic and social assemblies representing social groups and professional interests has clear corporativistic connotations even though this definition is rejected by integral federalists. An assembly that links up the economic and social interests in a state is the sum of particular wills, each of which tends to consider its own interests in an egoistic and unilateral way. Hence, it does not constitute a remedy in the clash of corporative interests because it is not capable of achieving mediation between conflicting interests nor of generating a political synthesis adapted to bring out the general will.
In the economic field, integral federalism has formulated proposals which today seem interesting and innovative. They do in fact put forward the basic outlines of a “third model”, an idea for which growing interest has recently been expressed in various quarters. But instead of being defined in relationship with the trends of contemporary history, the characteristics of the model are deduced in a doctrinaire way from the principles of federalism. Hence, the way in which they are presented prevents their innovatory aspects from being fully understood and fully received.
More generally, the fact remains that integral federalism has not revealed any major interest in developing and improving instruments for the interpretation of the objective course of history. Yet politics must make its peace with the historical process and social, economic and political structures, taken as the set of objective conditions in which human behaviour is based, which do not depend on our aspirations, however noble they may be. A federalist commitment which does not merely wish to restrict itself to a criticism of reality (its negation) but also proposes to change the world in a very concrete way, must never detach itself from real processes, but must actively participate with the objective of knowing them and orienting them. Hence objectives must be defined, which are internal to the current historical process and compatible with the historical conditions of our times.
The same criticism that Marx and Engels made of “utopistic socialism” is true of integral federalism, which, instead of seeking the elements required to affirm the socialist alternative in the historical process and its contradictions, is simply entrusted to the force of ideas and good will. Engels wrote, with regard to the founders of socialism, “The solution of the social problem… had to be created from the brain. Society only offered incongruencies; eliminating these incongruencies was the task of rationalizing reason. The need was to think up a new more perfect social order, and to introduce it into society from outside, with propaganda and, where possible, with the help of experiments”.
Substantially, the limit to political orientation of integral federalism consists in conceiving the federalist alternative as the total overthrow of the social reality it fights. It is a position that is limited to simple negation, the abstract refusal of this reality, and mechanically contrasts utopia with reality. The objective of the federalist revolution, wrote Marc, “is a radical reworking of all the structures [of our society] whether they be social or political, economic or mental”. Thinking in terms of the overall transformation of society means dreaming up a project that has never succeeded in any revolutionary group: destroying this badly made world and reconstructing it from its bases.
In a letter to Antoine Gauthier, Proudhon, an author in whom the integral federalists found considerable inspiration, wrote: “You ask me for explanations on how to reconstruct society… You must understand that the problem is not to imagine, to combine in our heads a system that we will subsequently present: the world cannot be reformed in this way. Society can only correct itself by itself”. The problem therefore is placed in clear terms. No political group can claim to change society as a whole, nor, moreover, does it have the power to do so. Society changes through the change in the behaviour of all.
Nevertheless, politics is that human activity which is entrusted with achieving self-government of society over itself by means of coercion and consensus, two ingredients both indispensable and present, albeit in differing proportions, in every society that has existed so far. In politics there is always the imposition of a few (governors) over the many (the governed). But historical experience demonstrates that political power does not last long without consensus. In other words, it is not possible to make a policy prevail if this does not correspond to the needs of the people. It may thus be affirmed that politics is the sphere in which revolutionary human action can change the course of events.
It will be a question merely of adapting political institutions to the changes that have taken place in society. This means that revolutionary action has never had the objective of radically transforming society, but of destroying the political institutions that block its development and impede historical progress. It means creating new institutions capable of freeing the trends developed in society towards higher forms of political coexistence.
Integral federalists conceived their political project because of the historical situation in which at the beginning this movement of ideas developed as a distant, ultimate goal, which had no influence on the decisions of the moment. And even when with the collapse of nation-states at the end of the Second World War, when the conditions for European unification matured, the priority political objective was identified in the affirmation of integral federalism in all its aspects rather than in the struggle for a European federation.
Certainly, a European federation has been fought for within the European Union of Federalists, but the main objective of integral federalists was the radical transformation of society in a federalist direction. As Marc states, “a good constitution could only accompany, express, and crown this necessary revolution and not precede it, or, still less, replace it”. By expressing the doubt that it was not enough to pursue the restricted objective of struggling to change the political institutions and that the European federation might not have led to a freer and more just society, this political current did not give rise to sufficient commitment in pursuing the objective of the European federation and did not achieve the commitment needed with power relationships whereas power must be changed if the federalist project is to triumph. De facto it ended up by championing the policy of European unification promoted by governments, which by definition does not question national sovereignties. This is still a widespread political attitude, which does not impute to the federalist organization responsibility for the construction of European unity, but which, in practice, requires this result from the existing powers. This feature is shared with utopistic socialism.
Moreover, we need to stress that, from the point of view of political effectiveness, the definition of federalism as a philosophy has a negative role. The fact is that those who though sharing political, economic and social objectives, did not agree either in part or in whole with its philosophical tenet, have moved away from federalist commitment. It follows that the latter ought to be abandoned to free individual decisions and not to interfere with political positions. The greatest difficulty of political groups that have adopted integral federalism has always been to define a political strategy. After all, they proved themselves incapable of giving a theoretical definition of federalism that could become the position of many people and that could transform it into a force. In other words, federalism must be capable of forming a nucleus of activists, making up the backbone of an independent political organization, and giving them a theoretical orientation capable of guiding them in political struggle. It is the merit of Italian federalism that it has overcome these limitations.
9. Federalism as ideology.
The originality of federalist thinking in Italy is the definition of federalism as ideology.
It is appropriate, before proceeding to examine the specific characteristics of this current of federalist thinking, to outline various premises regarding the notion of ideology and crisis in traditional ideologies. Ideology is a scheme for the analysis of the historical process with a view to controlling it and guiding it. More precisely it is a political project which brings to light the sense of a new phase in history by means of the affirmation of new institutions and new values.
Ideology is therefore the form which active political thinking takes. It is the conceptual system which makes it possible to achieve a convergence between thinking which is indispensable for the cohesion of a political group and the coherence of its principles of action. It may be distinguished from philosophical and religious thinking by its active nature, i.e. its projection and its orientation towards action. This explains why people with different philosophical and religious positions can accept the same ideology.
Besides this notion there is another which is more specific, which was introduced into political culture by Marx who claimed that ideology is self-mystifying thought. As Gustav Bergmann has clarified, mystification is produced every time a value judgement is mistaken for a statement of fact. This is a normal phenomenon in the political field, since political power is a social relationship in whose presence the mind, instead of representing reality, often conceals or distorts it.
Thus knowledge and error have always coexisted in ideologies taken in the first sense of the word, i.e. as a form of active political thinking.
Federalism, taken as an ideology, is placed in a relationship of continuity with regard to the great revolutionary movements of the past and at the same time is a form of a development of these movements, which manages to take mankind one step further in the process of emancipation. The birth and development of liberal, democratic and socialist ideologies was accompanied by the conviction that history might be the object of rational comprehension and conscious control. It is to be stressed, however, that this was only a partially founded conviction, since, besides the technical capacities of controlling social reality, which have led man to progress towards higher forms of political coexistence, those ideologies contained elements of self-mystification.
This current crisis coincides with the crisis of the traditional categories of historical and social analysis and the political and institutional models inherited from the past, which have proved to be increasingly inadequate in understanding and dominating the basic trends of contemporary history. That there is a crisis in traditional ideologies is a generally recognized fact. However, the nature of this crisis does not become clear except in the context of federalist thinking. The latter adopts a standpoint that makes it possible to recognize the limits of traditional ideologies and propose criteria of analysis and objectives that make it possible to overcome their crisis.
The crisis in ideologies is the crisis in traditional political thinking which is unable to control destructive forces (world wars, risk of nuclear and ecological disaster, exploitation and underdevelopment of the Third World etc.) raised by these new trends in contemporary history and is not able to recognize the new character of our age in the possibility and need for European and World unification. The limit to traditional ideologies lies in their dependence on a position of power tied to a class and a state. Indeed, the cause of the mystifications that can be found in these political conceptions lies in the fact that they have based their interpretation of social reality on the need to defend specific national interests or class interests. Even the objective of peace is seen as the result of a set of independent national policies.
Mario Albertini has pointed out that, with the World government, “in the context of a policy made by all for all, that power could no longer coincide with the advantage of some and the detriment of others but must coincide with the interest of all, i.e. with something that can be ascertained only scientifically”.
When the divisions of humanity into classes and nations have disappeared, it will also be possible to overcome those particular interests which distort knowledge and give rise to these mystifications, which are produced for the defence of power positions of groups who represent those parts of mankind in conflict with each other. The way it conceives the interests of mankind and the struggle for peace, i.e. the construction of a World government, able to control world history, gives federalism the character of an ideology which can reduce the theoretical errors in which the other ideologies have fallen, because of their unilateral standpoint, to a minimum.
To face up to the greatest problems of contemporary society, which have taken on dimensions which are much wider than nation-states, it is thus necessary to act in the common interest of mankind and not merely for one’s own country. This means that the time is now ripe to give priority to the objective of the European Union and Union in other continents, in the prospect of world unity in contrast to the goal of renewal of individual states considered separately. Federalism is the theoretical and practical awareness of this priority.
The great merit of Altiero Spinelli is that he laid the bases for a definition of federalism as an ideology, even though he always refused to place himself in this cultural perspective.
These bases consist in having developed the concept of theoretical and practical autonomy of federalism more deeply than any other federalist has ever done. On the theoretical plane, Spinelli’s reflection is based on the constitutional federalism of English-speaking countries, whose roots lie in The Federalist and which developed important analyses at the time of the First and Second World Wars firstly with Einaudi’s writings and subsequently with the works of English federalists in Federal Union.
The historical judgement on which the theoretical autonomy of this trend in federalist thinking is based may be summarized in the concept of the crisis in the nation-state. This form of the state, which is no longer able to control the basic trends in the course of history (internationalization of the productive process, formation of the world system of states, supremacy of states with continental dimensions), has become the main obstacle to the renewal of society and condemns all national alternatives to failure, whether they be liberal, democratic or socialist.
The concept of crisis in the nation-state may be distinguished from the crisis in civilization, adopted by integral federalists; because it bases the federalist alternative on the analysis of trends prevailing in contemporary history and identifies a specific contradiction which political action should have exploited. Thus the idea of the priority of reform of institutions (transcending the division of Europe into nation-states and encouraging Europe uniting into a federation) conflicts with the idea of overall reform of society typical of integral federalism. This approach makes it possible to indicate a clear objective in federalist action, which is clearly well-defined, comprehensible to all: the European federation taken as a European pillar of world peace. Peace and federation are thus the end and the means of this action.
In the field of political action, Spinelli’s work has a really innovatory meaning and represents a turning point in the history of federalism. The Ventotene Manifesto ushered in a new way of conceiving federalism, taken as a theory inspiring new political behaviour and autonomous political struggle. To understand the novelty of Spinelli’s position it is useful to compare it with that of his masters: Einaudi and the British federalists. For these authors, federalism never became a priority political choice, but remained an accessory to the conception of liberalism and socialism. The significance of Spinelli’s political design may be condensed in a reflection that can be read on last page of his memories, where his programme is described after being freed from internment: “No political formation was waiting for me… It was up to me to start a new and different movement for a new and different battle from scratch”.
What distinguishes Spinelli’s work from the Ventotene Manifesto onwards from preceding works, which went no further than stressing the historical crisis in the nation-state and placing the federalist alternative in some indefinite future, is the fact that Spinelli emphasized the idea of the current relevance of the European federation. I use the expression “current relevance” which Lukacs uses to define the vision of Lenin’s proletarian revolution and to distinguish it from the vision of other Marxists, with the purpose of affirming that, according to Spinelli, it is not only necessary, but also now possible to reconstruct Europe on federal bases, to open up the road to the world’s unification. The authors of the Manifesto (in the new historical context determined by the Second World War) claim that the historical crisis in the nation-state was a political crisis opening up a space for federalist initiatives.
Again in the Ventotene Manifesto we find principles of action that will inspire federalist action in the struggle for European unity, to which Spinelli always remained faithful. On the one hand, the strategic priority of the objective of European federation as compared with national renewal: “The problem which must be resolved first and failing which any other progress is mere illusion is the definitive abolition of the division of Europe into sovereign states” so that “if the struggle were restricted tomorrow to the traditional national field, it would be very difficult to escape the old contradictions”. The novelty in federalist thinking resides in the fact that it overthrows the order of priorities inspiring the conduct of political parties, for which the priority of national objectives remains: freedom and equality must be achieved in every single country and as a result these values are developed internationally like peace itself.
In the federalist prospect, federal institutions and peace are the premise, and not the consequence, of the complete fulfilment of liberty and equality. If the international objective is the premise to a positive solution of all other institutional, political, economic and social problems, the new line of division between the forces of progress and the forces of conservation is defined as follows: “Therefore the dividing line between progressive and reactionary parties no longer coincides with the formal lines of a greater or lesser democracy, or pursuit of a greater or lesser socialism, but the division falls along the very new and substantial line, separating those who conceive the essential purpose and goal of struggle as being the ancient one, i.e. the conquest of national political power — which, although involuntarily, play into the hands of reactionary forces, letting the incandescent lava of popular passions set in the old moulds, thus allowing old absurdities to arise once again — and those who see the creation of a solid international state as the main goal and who will direct popular forces towards this goal, and even if it were to win national power, use it first and foremost as an instrument for achieving international unity”.
In the age of the crisis in the nation-state, the main front of political struggle which discriminates the forces of progress from those of conservation is no longer identified in the conflict between the principles of socialism within the nation-states but in the conflict between nationalism and federalism. Traditional ideologies, insofar as they pursue the illusion of national renewal, remain prisoners of this political formula, and suffer its decadence and thus remain in the field of conservation.
Moreover, by giving life to new institutions corresponding in size and form to the requirements imposed by the evolution of the mode of production and organization of the state, the European federation will release the tendencies which have matured in society towards increasingly vast forms of supranational integration and freer and more open coexistence within which even the right wing could have a progressive role.
To be able to pursue their objectives independently of governments and political parties, federalists had to have their own organization. The authors of the Ventotene Manifesto felt that this organization should be the party. This error was soon corrected. The Italian federalist organization, whose foundation was promoted by Spinelli in Milan on August 27-28th, 1943, took the shape of a movement and an analogous structure was adopted by the federalist organizations in other countries partly because of the influence of the Italians. The struggle for national power would have strengthened this power and hence consolidated the division of Europe, whereas the organization as a movement made it possible to unite forces favourable to the European constitutional objective not only over and above party divisions, but also over and above national divisions. And indeed, in 1946 the federalist movements united to form the European Union of Federalists, which was a coalition of national movements at the beginning, but became a real supranational movement in 1973.
Spinelli also defined the strategy needed to achieve the objective of the European federation. As regards the juridical nature of this objective, he stressed this had a dual nature: on the one hand, it is a treaty with which the contracting states agree to give up part of their sovereignty in favour of a supranational government, on the other hand it is a constitution, which defines the form of the organization of the union of states.
Since the nature of the objective determines the character of the means to be used, Spinelli drew the conclusion that it is not possible to progress down the road to the construction of a European federation without the agreement of the states, even though the latter represent the main obstacle to the transfer of powers on a European level.
On this basis, Spinelli specified the characteristics of the constituent method, the only procedure possible to complete the construction of a European democratic power. On the one hand, a European Constituent Assembly, representative of all European peoples and political forces, is the only body capable of acting with the legitimacy that it receives from the vote and is thus endowed with the authority needed to draw up and propose the constitution. Moreover, in a Parliamentary assembly the decisions are taken publicly and according to the majority rule, i.e., on the basis of procedures that make it possible to clearly identify the responsibilities and reach democratic and effective decisions: this is the reverse of the diplomatic method, which is based on the principle of defending national sovereignties and which imposes compromises that take into account the position of all states, since it requires all decisions to be taken secretly and unanimously.
This constitutional approach contrasted with the functional approach, chosen by governments, because, by means of the creation of specialized communities, it was possible to take decisions at the European level without questioning national sovereignties. Spinelli strongly criticized the illusion that it was possible to really unify partial sectors (economic, military etc.) of European society without creating a democratic European government. He dedicated all his commitment to exploiting the contradictions arising from the partial character of the solutions proposed by the governments in an attempt to force the latter to adopt constitutional solutions.
On the basis of these principles of action Spinelli was able, when the chance came along to lead two attempts at constructing the European state which were undertaken in the course of the postwar period.
The first matured in the early fifties, in connection with the initiatives to build a European alternative (the ECSC and the EDC) to the reconstruction of Germany. Thanks to Spinelli’s intervention, these initiatives made it possible to trigger off a constituent process in which the ad hoc Assembly (the enlarged ECSC Assembly) was given a mandate to draw up the statute for the European Political Community, the political body needed to control the European army. The process was abruptly halted with the fall of the EDC in 1954 when the French National Assembly voted against.
The second attempt was the ratification of the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, drawn up on the initiative of Spinelli by the European Parliament on February 14th, 1984. Once again Spinelli found himself in the European Parliament, in the right place to be able to exercise his constitutional initiative. The opportunity was given by the contradiction of a Parliament elected by universal suffrage with only consultative powers which made it possible to begin the struggle to attribute the power to make laws and control the executive to the sovereign people through Parliamentary representation. This attempt failed but the contradiction revealed the permanent nature of the problem and hence also the permanent need for action to overcome it. Indeed, Spinelli himself, a few months before his death, had once more begun to struggle for the Union within the European Parliament.
All in all, Spinelli’s role in European political life was, to use a Hegelian formula, that of a “World-historical Individual”. World-historical Individuals express the deepest tendencies in an age and identify themselves so much with them that the individual goal coincides with the universal goal. The end that they pursue is not thus something arbitrary, but corresponds to the needs of a phase in history and belongs to the real possibilities of their times. Hegel wrote: “Historical and universal individuals are those who first expressed what men want. It is difficult to know what we want. We may certainly want this or that, but we still remain in the field of the negative and discontent: knowledge of the affirmative may well be lacking. But those individuals also know what they want is the affirmative”.
They have, however, an intuitive knowledge of the problems of their age. As Hegel observed, “the concept is proper to philosophy. But historical and universal individuals are not required to know this, because they are men of action. On the contrary, they know and want their work, because it corresponds to the age”. This quotation from Hegel is strikingly similar to an autobiographic page in Spinelli’s work when he says: “The European federation did not present itself as an ideology… it was the reply that my spirit yearning for political action was seeking”.
The sense of Spinelli’s entire work is resolved in the heroic concentration of all energies to a single end: action for the European federation. With Spinelli, for the first time in history the new features of federalism, taken as autonomous political behaviour as compared with that of other political forces, began to take shape albeit only in terms of political action. It is a position which in germ contains the idea of federalism as ideology.
The significance of Mario Albertini’s political and cultural formulation lies precisely in having deepened and extended the range of the concept of federalism’s political, organizational, and theoretical autonomy. Precisely this conception of federalism’s autonomy, which constitutes the essential element linking Spinelli’s work with Albertini’s, defines the basic characteristic which makes the line of development of the Federalist Movement in Italy so distinct. To examine Albertini’s contribution in the proper perspective, it must be situated in the historical context that made it possible. The context is that of a phase of European unification which began with the commencement of the Common Market after the fall of the EDC, in the course of which national governments were able to control and make European unity progress economically, without any possibility of founding the European federation for many years. Faced with this new political cycle, the more autonomous wing of organized federalism (in practice the Federalist Movement in Italy and part of that in France) began what Spinelli called a “new course” of intransigent opposition to the Common Market and the Europeanist policy of governments, based on the demand for a European constituent. In keeping with this political choice, the need to found the organizational and cultural autonomy of federalism on new and more solid bases matured.
The difference between this political cycle and the previous one is very clear-cut. For as long as the alternative between the reconstruction of the German army and the construction of the European army imposed by the Cold War remained on the carpet, so did the possibility of achieving a European state. This situation, which encouraged the convergence between the European Federalist Movement and the established powers, made it possible to mobilize the Europeanist governments, and the parties supporting them, along the lines of the Constituent Assembly. The political substance of the Movement was no more than a centre of coordination and direction for the Europeanism of the members of the parties and the governments. For three reasons the Movement could not be defined as a “European political force”, as Spinelli pointed out in 1956: in the first place, because it was a simple “coalition of national movements”; secondly, because it only had the role of “prompter” for national political forces and, finally, because it had not “developed a nucleus of active members in its midst”.
A movement of this nature had become manifestly inadequate in facing the tasks created by the phase of European unification which began after the fall of the EDC — hence the debate which developed in the Movement on the nature and the characteristics of the organization. The choices that were then made were of great relevance for the life and development of the Movement. The form of organization is not in fact indifferent to the objectives that are to be pursued: the form is all the more effective the more it is appropriate to the ends that it is intended to pursue. Lukàcs wrote: “organization is… the form of mediation between theory and practice”. In other words, it is the vehicle by means of which principles can be turned into practice. It is a new element which carries out the function of introducing change into history.
Albertini’s position, which has gained a strong following in Italy, is distinct in that it has defined the requirements that an organization must have to be autonomous more deeply than any other. The problem to be resolved according to Albertini is to create a movement prepared to lead along-term struggle capable of facing up to the task even in a position of isolation from all other political and social forces, a movement not spurred on by the incentive of the struggle to conquer the traditional establishment (power or economic interests) but only motivated by the contradiction between values and facts.
Albertini defined the active federalist member as a professional politician but not as a salaried employee, as Spinelli wanted. Active members should be able to draw their means of sustenance from their own work and should dedicate all their free time to political work (which should be voluntary and free). Only these requisites could ensure complete independence for the Federalist Movement from the establishment. Moreover, to avoid any outside conditioning the activity of the sections should be based on active members’ self-finance. Finally, because federalist culture does not possess the institutional channels that traditional ideologies possess for the diffusion of their ideas, the sections, to be able to survive, should permanently dedicate a part of their activity to the training of active members. All in all, the autonomy of the Federalist Movement should be based on rigorous selection criteria. It should, in other words, be based only on stimuli deriving from morality and culture, so as to form active members who involve themselves in the political struggle with a passion which outstrips that shown for their own private life. This is a hard task, on the very limits of human capacity, in a world in which power and money tend to become the dominating incentives and which are almost always exclusive in political struggle. But the survival and strengthening of the Federalist Movement are the living example in our society that there exists a reserve of moral energies and intellectual capacities willing to participate in political life in a new and different way.
The section became the basic cell in which federalist activity takes place. Here are the three basic functions of the section as defined by Albertini: a centre for debating and drawing up federalist culture and matching it against other political and social groups; a centre for political agitation through the adoption of positions which make it possible for federalists to participate in the political debate, and action directed towards public opinion (such as the Congress of the European People or Voluntary Census of the European Federal People) and designed to give expression to the widespread Europeanism in the population; a centre for co-ordination of democratic forces, whose unity is needed to activate and achieve the necessary support required when taking such a difficult decision as transferring a part of the states’ powers to the European federation.
Finally, it should be remembered that the edifice of federalist organization culminates with a supranational structure on the European level. The transformation of the MFE from being an international movement into a supranational movement (1959) made it possible for federalists to have a stable European standpoint, to formulate a policy and choose the leaders with democratic decisions taken on a European level.
All in all, the Federalist Movement is distinguished from every other organization which participates in political life owing to the fact that its power is not based either on the vote or on violence, or on representation of interests. Although participating in political struggle, the Federalist Movement does not struggle like political parties to gain existing powers, nor to influence them unlike pressure groups, but struggles to construct a new power, the European power.
A political struggle which excludes national power and national institutions is an absolute novelty even as regards the experience of the revolutionary party inspired by Marxism and Leninism. The latter in fact practises opposition to the government and the regime, but does not question the state’s political framework which it wishes to transform. On the other hand, the Federalist Movement practises opposition to the government, the regime and the community. In other words, it proposes, in addition, the objective of changing the character of the exclusive communities which nation-states have and unifying them in a federal community thus transforming them into member states of the European Federation, in such a way that they can coexist peacefully though maintaining their autonomy.
Where they have been applied (as in the case of Italy which has so far, with rare exceptions, remained isolated), these organizational rules have contributed in creating an influential group in political life. Because of them, federalists have been able to adopt a standpoint that has permitted them to escape the practical and ideological conditioning of the nation-states, to maintain the most rigorous political autonomy with regard to political parties and governments, to exclude themselves from national political struggle and to dedicate themselves entirely to the preparation of the European democratic alternative to be proposed when the crisis inevitably strikes the states and the European community itself.
To these considerations we need to add that in the final analysis, organizational autonomy and political influence in the Federalist Movement depend on cultural autonomy, i.e. on the idea that only federalist culture is able to respond to the greatest problems facing Europe and the world, which traditional ideologies are not capable either of understanding fully or of dominating. Both the survival and growth of the Federalist Movement depends, in fact, on the capacity to understand the basic tendencies in contemporary history and to indicate a solution to the greatest problems, which cannot be resolved on the national level.
I wish to recall, by way of example, the position that Italian federalists took as regards the decision to institute the EEC. They certainly did not ignore the effectiveness of the tendency to internationalize the productive process, which was the mainstay behind the Common Market, and indeed they recognized its progressive character. But this did not imply that they were forced to support it. In September 1957, Spinelli published an article entitled La beffa del Mercato comune in which he sustained that the objectives of the Treaty establishing the EEC could not be achieved without a European government. Albertini subsequently deepened this analysis, identifying the conditions that had made the start of a new cycle of European unification possible and, in particular, the political factors without which the Common Market would not have worked: the decline of national sovereignties and the hegemony of the United States have made the convergence between raison d’état in Europe and collaboration among states associated in the EEC feasible. This made it possible to identify the limits of the success of the Common Market, which by causing a relative strengthening of states would have determined a crisis both in their European collaboration and in the hegemony of the United States. Hence the forecast that governments would not have been able to complete economic unification and the Common Market would have done nothing more than delay the problem of the transfer of sovereignty to a European state: a problem that governments are not able to solve by themselves. The crisis in the Common Market would have created space for the autonomous intervention of the Federalist Movement and opened the way up for the struggle for the creation of a European government.
This crisis began to become apparent after the realization of the Customs Union and the Common Agricultural Market (1968). From this time onwards, to encourage economic unification and even to keep it up, it was necessary to attempt to create a European currency and a democratic European government. The Federalist Movement identified the action needed to achieve this objective in the struggle for direct elections to the European Parliament, on the basis of the forecast that the elected European Parliament would have had a constituent role. This is what the Strasbourg Assembly did, approving the Draft Treaty for European Union inspired by Spinelli on February 14th, 1984, and submitting it to the ratification of the member states. Certainly, the European Union is not yet the European federation. It creates the conditions for an effective government of the European economy, but gives no reply to the problem of European foreign policy and security. However, the victory in the struggle to ratify the Treaty establishing the European Union represents the premise for carrying the clash between emerging European power and the old and falling national powers on more advanced terrain, namely the creation of a European federation.
The topicality of the federalist alternative was thus justified on the basis of the analysis of the basic trends in contemporary history. The theoretical deepening which gave the Federalist Movement the awareness of its own cultural autonomy was the result of a practical need, namely the need to assert the federalist alternative to the old regime of nation-states in a more effective way and to intervene in a much more incisive way as a factor of progress in the course of history.
The cultural development of federalists in Italy is distinguished from that of integral federalists by the fact that it developed in strict relationship with historical and social sciences. Albertini’s basic line of commitment in research consists in the attempt, which must be interpreted in the prospect of the unification of social sciences, to strive towards the definition of an overall model of historical and social reality. It is a programme which as yet has generally still to be achieved, at least as regards its formal development. It is essential to realize that it fixes an objective which is necessary for any revolutionary movement which proposes to develop the bases of knowledge projected towards action. “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” wrote Lenin.
Albertini’s work plan consists in the attempt to draw up a model which is the result of the synthesis of a set of theoretical contributions taken from various disciplines.
In the first place, he uses historical materialism, taken as the theory which considers the evolution of the mode of production as the decisive factor which in the final instance determines the course of history and social change. In particular, the theory of scientific revolution of material production highlights the fact that social integration, which develops beyond the frontiers of the states, creates the historical and social conditions to overcome the division of the world into antagonistic nations and to achieve the unification of mankind. Moreover, the fact that automation reduces the quantity of work needed to physically reproduce man while the amount of material goods tends constantly to increase creates the conditions with which to overcome the class struggle and to bring about the affirmation of new forms of social solidarity within the grass-roots communities.
In the second place, Albertini recuperates the theory of raison d’état, taken as the theory which defines international politics as the area for power relationships between states not fenced in by law. It follows that not only does international anarchy force every state to privilege security as compared with every other value, but also that the World federation, by achieving perpetual peace would make it possible to eliminate violence as a means of solving conflicts and would make it possible to achieve freedom and equality fully. The theory of raison d’état is thus like the theory of politics of a given phase in history: namely the phase of international anarchy.
In the third place, Albertini develops the theory of ideology, taken as the form that thought takes on in politics. Ideologies indicate a value to achieve for human will and the means by which to achieve it on the basis of their projection towards the future and the never completely fulfilled attempt to achieve overall knowledge of the historical situation which produced them (ideologies have always linked theoretical knowledge and mystification). Hence in any ideology there are three elements: a value aspect, a structure aspect and a historical and social aspect. The identification of the ends corresponds to the definition of the value aspect. The structure aspect makes it possible to identify the form of the organization of power needed to achieve this end. The historical and social aspect defines the historical context in which it is possible to achieve a value through an adequate power structure.
On the basis of these theoretical instruments, Albertini developed a scientific criticism of the idea of nation, which made it possible to effect a radical negation of the nation-state system, and the construction of a theory of federalism, taken not simply as a constitutional technique, producing peaceful coexistence of a set of independent and co-ordinate governments, but as an ideology which throws light on the new sense of history. It is to Albertini that we owe the most significant contributions in both these directions. It should be stressed that these are two aspects of the same work of intellectual development.
Indeed all ideologies have progressively developed their own determinations through the experience of the negation of the existing system, which was manifestly inadequate when it tried to dominate the profound transformations which occurred in social reality. The first problem that must be resolved by any new ideology is understanding the true nature of the old order and its institutional and conceptual limits. This becomes possible only when the old order is on the wane. As Hegel pointed out in the Preface to his Philosophy of Law, the basic lines of an order in decline are fully recognizable in the light of the dusk, announced by the flight of Minerva’s owl. This knowledge makes it possible to identify the basic contradiction in an entire age and to formulate an overall historical judgement about it. As the negation of absolutism and capitalism have respectively marked the birth of liberal ideology and socialist ideology, so the negation of nationalism marks the birth of federalism.
In Lo Stato nazionale, Albertini defines the nation as the ideological reflection of the membership of a particular type of state: the centralized bureaucratic state. This political formation, typical of the European continent, requires integration of the citizens into the state which becomes much more powerful the more centralized power becomes, in such a way as to subject the material and ideal resources of the country to the direct control of central government. The nation’s awareness, as something really diffused in the population, is thus the consequence (and not the premise) of the formation of the nation-state and a precise political programme, drawn up for the first time by the Jacobins during the French revolution, which proposed bringing unity to the language, culture and traditions throughout the state’s territory. This led to the destruction of all the links with the communities which were smaller or larger than the state. Thus the fusion of state and nation became for nation-state governments the basis for demanding exclusive loyalty from the citizens and developing an aggressive foreign policy.
The method used by Albertini is to define the nation on the basis of the empirical observation of individuals’ behaviour. National behaviour is a behaviour of loyalty. The objective reference of this behaviour is the state, which, however, is not viewed as such, but rather as an illusory entity, to which cultural, aesthetic and sporting experiences are tied, whose specific nature is not national. Underlying this is a power relationship. Individuals, who go to national schools, celebrate national holidays, pay national taxes, do national military service, which prepares them to live and die for the nation, express this behaviour in terms of loyalty to a mythical entity, the nation, an idealized representation of centralized bureaucratic states. This idealization of reality is the mental reflection of the power relationships between individuals and the nation-state.
It is therefore Albertini’s merit if the notion of ideology has been extended, whereas Marx restricted it to class positions, to power relationships within the state. On this basis it is possible to demystify the idea of nation, which was born as a revolutionary idea and which today has evolved into a factor of conservation. Insofar as it represents the political division between nations as just and natural and even sacred, it conflicts with the basic tendency of contemporary history, i.e. internationalization of the process of production, which requires that the state should organize itself on vast political scale along multinational and federal lines. In actual fact the struggle to overcome the exclusive nation, so topical in Europe today, makes it possible to restore a direction to political action that had been lost in the general crisis of ideologies and to define the strategic line which distinguishes federalist behaviour from the behaviour of other political forces inspired by traditional ideologies in terms of the opposition to the national community.
With this consideration we have moved on to examine the role of federalism in contemporary society, which constitutes the subject of another major book by Albertini: Il Federalismo: Antologia e definizione. The theoretical objective of this book is to provide a rigorous definition of federalism. First and foremost, Albertini considers the definition of federalism as the theory of the federal state as being highly reductive. It is sufficient to take into consideration the mutual conditioning between political institutions and society: if the federal state is a state with typical characteristics which distinguish it from all other forms of state, it is necessary to posit that society has specific characteristics, which make it possible to make federal institutions work.
In drawing up the definition of federalism as an ideology, Albertini formulated a valid criterion of analysis for other ideologies too (liberalism, socialism etc.), according to which in every ideology we can identify one value aspect, one structure aspect and one historical and social aspect.
The value aspect of federalism is peace. The relationship which exists between federalism and peace is the same that exists between liberalism and freedom, democracy and equality, socialism and social justice. In this prospect, Albertini recuperates the political, juridical, historical and philosophical vision of Kant, whose current topicality is stressed by the crisis in the nation-state and the growth beyond the state frontiers of the interdependence of human action, of which European unification is the most developed aspect. These phenomena should be interpreted as premises for the realization of lasting peace through the construction of the World federation. Denying the nation as a result of the European federation means denying “the culture of the political division of mankind” which legitimates the duty to kill for the defence of the nation, and at the same time means affirming the right not to kill in the prospect of fully achieving it with the World federation. World Wars and the discovery of nuclear arms seem to suggest that Kant’s prophecy is being fulfilled, whereby the experience of the destructiveness of war in itself would have led states to renounce their “wild liberty” and accept common laws.
The structural aspect of federalism is the federal state which makes it possible to go beyond the closed centralized structures of the nation-state downwards with the formation of real regional and local autonomies and upwards with the achievement of effective forms of political and social solidarity over and above the nation-states. As we have seen, it is a constituent aspect of the notion of federalism, the most widely studied aspect, but in itself insufficient for the purposes of achieving an exhaustive definition.
The historical and social aspect of federalism is federal society, articulated at various levels, from the community to the world, which makes coexistence with loyalty towards overall society possible with that towards the smaller territorial communities, so that no-one can prevail over the other. The formation of this society is made possible by overcoming the division of mankind into classes and antagonistic nations, which has already started among the European Community countries, but conceivable or foreseeable on a world scale in view of the development of the scientific mode of production. That there has been only partial development of this social pluralism in the federal societies which have existed so far depends on the fact that, on the one hand, the class struggle has caused the feeling of class membership to prevail over every other form of social solidarity thus preventing strong ties of solidarity from developing in local and regional communities and, on the other hand, on the fact that the struggle between states on an international scale has led to the strengthening of central powers to the detriment of local powers. And all this explains the marginal role of federal experiences of the past (which may be imputed to fortunate historical circumstances) and the correspondence between federalism and the crucial historical turning point in our age.
On the basis of this definition, Albertini has divided the phases of development in federalist thinking into different periods. The first phase, which runs from the French revolution to the First World War, is characterized by the affirmation, albeit only regarding principles, of the community and cosmopolitan component of federalism against the authoritarian and bellicose aspects of the nation-state. In the second phase, which runs from the First to the Second World War, the criteria relating to federalism were used to interpret the crisis in the nation-state and the European system of power. In the third phase, which began after the Second World War and which is still underway, the use of conceptual schemes and political and institutional instruments of federalism is needed to resolve the crisis in Europe.
After the direct election of the European Parliament and the formation of an embryonic European political life, Albertini proposed theses entitled Uniting Europe to Unite the World, which were approved on the occasion of the Tenth Congress of the Movimento Federalista Europeo (Bari, 1980). With this political and cultural turning point, the reflection and political activity of Italian federalists was projected into a world dimension and the struggle for the European Union appears as a stage on the road to full realization of international democracy. In this perspective, the construction of the European federation was presented as the crucial historical event of our times, the first affirmation of the federalist course of history, which will culminate with the achievement of peace through the World federation. Federalism in our age thus has an analogous role to liberal, democratic and socialist ideologies in the past: through the development and affirmation of peace culture, it proposes a project for society capable of providing a reply to the greatest problems of our age and reopening the possibility of thinking the future, which was overshadowed in traditional ideologies because of the exhaustion of their revolutionary force.
K.C. Wheare, Federal Government, Westport, Greenwood Press, 1980, p. 20.
This assessment made in 1945 was confirmed by Wheare in 1963. See Some Theoretical Questions About Federalism, International Political Science Association, Oxford Round Table Meeting, 19-24 September 1963 (mimeographed).
On this subject see for example H. Carrère D’Encausse, L’Empire éclaté, Paris, Flammarion, 1978. On the nature of Soviet federalism V.M. Tchikvadze (“Soviet Federalism and the Development of the Legal System in the USSR” in Federalism and Development of Legal Systems, edited by the International Association of Legal Sciences, Brussels, Bruylant, 1971, p. 150) observes that “the most significant distinctive feature of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a federation is the fact that it is not just a union of independent states, but a union of independent national states, a union of nations”. And in the same text we read that there are “more than 130” such nations.
K.C. Wheare is the only scholar to have formulated the theory of the institutional aspects of federalism in a very rigorous way. In his book Federal Government he contrasts the four classic examples of federation (the USA, Switzerland, Canada and Australia). On this basis he defines the federal principle as “the method of dividing powers so that the general and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinated and independent” (p. 10).
A.A. Berle, Jr., “Evolving Capitalism and Political Federalism” in Federalism Mature and Emergent, edited by A.W. Macmahon, Garden City, New York, Dobleday and Co., 1955, p. 73.
M. Albertini, F. Rossolillo, “La décadence du fédéralisme aux Etats-Unis” in Le Fédéraliste, IV (1962), pp. 242-44.
A. Hamilton, J. Jay, J. Madison, The Federalist, London, J.M. Dent & Sons LTD, 1961, no. l0.
The book in which the analysis of this tendency, defined as new federalism, is developed for the first time is J.P. Clark, The Rise of a New Federalism, New York, London, Oxford University Press, 1938. See also M.J.C. Vile, The Structure of American Federalism, New York, London, Oxford University Press, 1962; D.J. Elazar, The American Partnership, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1962; M.A. Reagan, The New Federalism, New York, London, Oxford University Press, 1972.
M.J.C. Vile, op. cit. p. 199. K.C. Wheare himself in Some Theoretical Questions About Federalism, op. cit., pp. 5-6, considers this definition more adequate in defining the co-operative aspects brought to light by the most recent developments in federal institutions.
C.I. Friedrich, Trends of Federalism in Theory and Practice, London, Pall Mall Press, 1968, p. 82.
Ibid., p. 177.
Ibid., p. 8.
Ibid., p. 82.
Ibid., pp. 11-12.
Ibid., p. 83.
M. Albertini, Il federalismo. Antologia e definizione, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1979, pp. 65-67.
“Engels an Joseph Bloch in Konigsberg” in K. Marx, F. Engels, Ausgewählte Schriften, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, 1974, p. 456.
“Engels an Conrad Schmidt in Berlin” in K. Marx, F. Engels, op. cit, p. 461.
The independence of the Commonwealth Dominions was recognized by a statute of the British Parliament in 1931, incorporating the results of the Imperial Conference which had taken place in 1926. In the concluding report to the Conference, the Dominions were defined as “autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate to one another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations” (E. Barker, Ideas and Ideals of the British Empire, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1951, pp. 94-95). E. McWhinney, a Canadian scholar on federal institutions (in Federal Constitution-Making for a Multi-National World, Leyden, Sijthoff, 1966, pp. 106-7), defines the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth as “the extraordinary devolution of British political authority, and ultimately also surrender of British sovereignty”.
I have gone more fully into this in L. Levi, Crisi dello Stato nazionale, internazionalizzazione del processo produttivo e internazionalismo operaio, Turin, Stampatori, 1976.
R. Aron, A. Marc, Principes du fédéralisme, Paris, Le Portulan, 1948, p. 19.
Ibid. p. 43.
A. Marc, L’Europe dans le monde, Paris, Payol, 1965, p. 4.
R. Aron, A. Marc, op. cit., pp. 43-44.
Ibid., p. 20.
A. Marc, L’Europe dans le monde, cit., p. 6.
A. Marc, Dialectique du déchaînement, Paris, Colombe, 1961.
A. Aron, A. Marc, op. cit. p. 108.
F. Engels, Herrn Eugen Dürings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft in K. Marx, F. Engels, Gesamtausgabe, Glashütten in Taunus, Verlag Detlev Auvermann K.G., 1970, vol. Xlll, p. 267.
A. Marc, L’Europe dans le monde, cit., p. 27.
I quote the letter from C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, P.-J. Proudhon. Sa vie et sa correspondance. 1838-1848, Paris, A. Costes, 1947, p. 154. For a commentary that explains the position of this text in the general conception of society and the history of Proudhon, see M. Albertini, “Proudhon était-il fédéraliste intégral?” in L’Europe en formation, 1965, n. 62, pp. 18-20.
A. Marc, L’Europe dans le monde, cit., p. 27.
0n this theme see M. Albertini, “Pour ou contre la Charte”, supplement to No. 4, V (1963) of Le Fédéraliste.
The failure of integral federalism as regards recruiting and training activists is recognized by F. Kinsky, which in “Où en est la stratégie fédéraliste?” L’Europe en formation, 1984, N. 258, p. 29, affirms: “In France there are ideas… , but there are no activists”.
G. Bergmann, The Metaphysics of Logical Positivism, New York, Longmans Green and Co., 1954, p. 310.
M. Albertini, Il federalismo, cit., p. 305.
See in this regard an article of 1957 (A. Spinelli, “Pourquoi je suis européen” in Preuves, 1957, n. 81, p. 37: “My attention was not attracted by the muddled, tortuous and rather incoherent ideological federalism of the Proudhon and Mazzini type found in France and Italy, but from the clean, precise and antidoctrinaire thinking of English federalists who, in the ten years preceding the war, suggested that the great American political experience should be transplanted into Europe. I did not view the European federation as an ideology”. Spinelli never departed from this line of thinking, as demonstrated by the fact that the whole of this passage is quoted in L’Europa non cade dal cielo (Bologna, Il Mulino, 1960, p. 15) and partially in Come ho tentato di diventare saggio. lo Ulisse (Bologna, Il Mulino, 1984, p. 309).
On the sources of Spinelli’s federalist thinking see Come ho tentato di diventare saggio, cit., p. 307.
A. Spinelli, E. Rossi, Il Manifesto di Ventotene, Naples, Guida 1982.
A. Spinelli, Come ho tentato di diventare saggio, cit., p. 343.
G. Lukàcs, Lénine, Paris, EDI, 1961, pp. 25-31.
A. Spinelli, E. Rossi op. cit. p.35.
Ibid., p. 37.
On the themes of constitutionalism and the criticism of functionalism see: A. Spinelli, Dagli Stati sovrani agli Stati Uniti d’Europa, Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1950; “Il modello costituzionale americano e i tentativi di unità europea”, in La nascita degli Stati Uniti d’America, edited by L. Bolis, Milan, Comunità, 1957.
G.W.F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, Leipzig, F. Meiner, 1917, vol. I, p. 77.
Ibid., p. 76.
A. Spinelli, “Pourquoi je suis européen”, cit., pp. 37-38.
A. Spinelli, L’Europa non cade dal cielo, cit. pp. 253-54.
G. Lukàcs, History and Class Consciousness, London, Merlin Press, 1971, p. 299.
On this point see M. Albertini’s articles signed as Publius in the Popolo europeo and subsequently published as “Esame tecnico della lotta per l’Europa” in Il Federalista, I (1959), pp. 86-111 and also M. Albertini “Il federalismo militante. Vecchio e nuovo modo di fare politica” in Il dibattito federalista, I (1985), No. 1, pp. 1-3.
“Le Mouvement Fédéraliste Européen” in Le Fédéraliste, VIII (1966), p. 232.
M. Albertini, “La stratégie de la lutte pour l’Europe” in Le Fédéraliste, VIII (1966), pp. 165-67.
The article is published in A. Spinelli, L’Europa non cade dal cielo, cit. pp. 282-87.
See M. Albertini, “La force de dissuasion francese” in Il Federalista, II (1960), pp. 331-37.
See M. Albertini, La Stato nazionale, Naples, Guida, 1980; Il federalismo, cit., and Proudhon, Florence, Vallecchi, 1974.
V.I. Lenin, What is to be done?, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1964, p. 25.
Il Federalista, XXII (1980), pp. 5-9.