political revue


Year XLIV, 2002, Number 3, Page 203



Federalism from Community to the World
Spinelli’s Inheritance.
In attempting to describe the intellectual figure of Mario Albertini as a theorist of federalism, it is necessary to make a comparison with Altiero Spinelli, who is a decidedly better known character. Although very few people are familiar with Spinelli’s works, it is baffling to see that history has mysteriously ranked him among the most important figures of the last century. As the main author of The Manifesto of Ventotene and founder of the European Federalist Movement, he is numbered among the founding fathers of the united Europe.
Spinelli’s greatest achievement was to have taken federalism into the field of action. For Spinelli, federalism was a political priority. For him it was not simply an adjunct to liberalism, as it was for his teachers Lord Lothian, Lionel Robbins, and Luigi Einaudi — or to socialism, as it was for Barbara Wootton. Spinelli regarded federalism as a real political alternative to Europe’s organization into sovereign states. In fact he saw it as an alternative to the state, and not just to government or regime.
Spinelli championed the autonomy of federalism more than any federalist before him. In particular in the field of political action, Spinelli’s work has been truly innovative. He developed a theory of democratic action to unify a group of states. Like the cosmic-historical individual described by Hegel, Spinelli was man of action: throughout his life his sole purpose was to seek the universal goal of the unification of Europe. “The concept is very much one of philosophy. Historical-universal men are not obliged to know it because they are men of action. On the contrary, they know and love their work because it corresponds to their epoch.”[1] These words of Hegel are extraordinarily apt for describing the work of Spinelli.
He modelled his course of action on that of the ancient thinkers, which was guided by the pursuit of wisdom. How I Tried to Become Wise is the title of his unfinished collection of memoirs. Like the ancient philosophers, who “modestly called themselves philosophoi”, he regarded wisdom as something with which one could “only befriend and never presume to own”.[2] From Taoism to Stoicism and Epicureanism, the ideal of wisdom represents the traditional response to the problem of establishing an active approach — to life rather than history — based on moral principles.
Spinelli’s interpretation of this ancient vision was that, “Wisdom does not exist. There are… infinite wisdoms related to the infinite variety of psychological materials of which we are made.”[3] In other words, there are as many truths as there are men. According to Spinelli, there is no such thing as a sense of history that connects the history of the past to that of the future within a single scheme. Spinelli set himself the task of founding a new state — the European Federation — to be created from nothing, just as the European Federalist Movement was created from nothing. In the conclusion to the first part of his memoirs, Spinelli says in reference to this event, “It was up to me to create from nothing a new and different movement for a new and different battle”.[4]
Before the Enlightenment (and the revolutions it inspired) — that is, before the masses erupted onto the stage of history — a collective action to change the structure of the state and improve conditions of political coexistence was inconceivable. As a result, an active approach to life founded on moral principles (that is, wisdom) was strictly a matter for the individual. With Spinelli, an entirely new political leader in step with the era of democratic revolution in which we live made his appearance in history. He conceived and initiated a democratic action for the unification of a group of states — a goal traditionally pursued by means of war.
Although he occasionally felt the need to further the theory of federalism,[5] this was a task that went beyond the individual, albeit an individual with an exceptional talent. Having decided to concentrate his energy on the movement for European Federation, Spinelli behaved as if the theory of federalism could be found ready-made in the classic works of federalist thought.
The Methodological Foundations of Albertini’s Political Theory: Social Sciences and the Philosophy of History.
Albertini picked up where Spinelli left off. Spinelli was his Pietro Giordani, about which Leopardi said, “Inveni hominem” (I have found the man). Spinelli said of Albertini, “It is just as well that in the European Federalist Movement there is a Saint-Just type”.[6] Although he made important contributions to the theory of federalist action (a theme that I will not be dealing with here), Albertini primarily elaborated on the autonomy of federalism on the theoretical level. And it is in this area that he surpasses his master. The theoretical insights that we owe to him occupy two distinct fields of knowledge: the social sciences and the philosophy of history.
He was an unparalleled practitioner of that lofty bent that is theory. He was possessed by this demon, which burned within him like a devouring flame. What made him exceptional was his craving, which he carried all his life, to put theory at the service of political action. From this perspective, he was a modern man. He conceived science in operational terms. He had the modern view of science that dates from Francis Bacon. It is no longer the abstract theoria of Aristotle. Science is the power to use technology to control reality — not just nature, but also society. Knowledge has an eminently practical purpose: to use the words of Brecht’s Galileo, “The intent of science is to ease the toil of human existence”.[7]
From another perspective, Albertini thoroughly eschews the naive idealism that ignores the role of the mighty impersonal forces — that is, the structure of the means of production and political power — in history. Albertini developed his theories in close alignment with the historical and social sciences. Through analysing political, economic, and social structures, these sciences provide a vision of the range of objective conditions within which our behaviour is rooted and that are independent of our desires, no matter how noble they may be. Although they are yet to produce a satisfactory systemization, the historical and social sciences allow us to gain at least some insight into the objective tendencies of history. On the basis of this knowledge it is possible to distinguish between what, in history, can be attributed to the objective course of events and what can be attributed to free will — that is, to political planning. These sciences therefore help identify the in sphere that history belongs respectively to necessity and to freedom. Thus they play an indispensable role in political action. Knowledge of social reality represents the foundation stone of a policy guideline that is neither sterile nor faint-hearted.
The central hypothesis on which Albertini based his theoretical writings is that only if one recognizes the place occupied by necessity in history and knows the laws that govern the operation of society is it possible to identify the cracks that are open to human intervention for change. The connecting thread running through all his work is also common to all revolutionary thought: the gaining of knowledge of social reality so as to act upon this reality — that is, to change it — with some possibility of success. The strength of Albertini’s thinking was to show that the revolutionary strategy demands scientific analysis of the social reality and that today the federalist (supranational) point of view represents the best perspective from which to provide this analysis.
His attitude to science was the same as Marx’s in Theses on Feuerbach. In the second thesis we find, “The question whether human thinking can pretend to objective truth is not a theoretical but a practical question. Man must prove the truth, that is the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.”[8] In other words, the test of the truth of thought lies in its capacity to change reality. For Albertini, theoretical research is an expression of a practical need.
The task of his theoretical writings was precisely to demonstrate the superiority of federalist thought because of its capacity to transform the world, as opposed to academic thought, which limits itself to contemplating reality, leaving the task and responsibility of changing it to others. Very few people, and sometimes only one, invent new ideas. And this rule holds true for every aspect of human culture: from religion to science, from philosophy to politics, from art to literature. The founders of new movements are the people who perceive before others things that everyone feels but in an unclear way. They put forward an appeal to break the old ways of thinking through which experience is selected and interpreted and the institutions on which the old order is founded. The thing that distinguishes the true from the false prophet, the discoverer of new scientific laws from the charlatan, and the revolutionary from the dreamer is the success of their work — that is, the capacity of their new ideas to respond to the problems of their age. In other words, it is society that determines the validity of new ideas and institutions on the basis that they respond to widely felt needs. “In the final analysis”, says Albertini, “who decides the truth or otherwise of a theory is society”.[9] In other words, society defines the meaning and value of the yardsticks of knowledge and action.
This view of the relationship between knowledge and society is completely compatible with the choice of method on which the social sciences base themselves — that is, the logical heterogeneity between assertions of fact and value judgements, between being and should be. Albertini is fully aware of the confines within which scientific knowledge has validity: the field of empirically verifiable facts. The basis of scientific knowledge lies in the empirical ascertainment of constant relationships between phenomena. Sentient experience is therefore the criterion that allows the verification or falsification of theoretical assertions.
While science offers access to a precise and controlled knowledge of an individual part of reality, there still exist fundamental aspects of reality that are beyond the grasp of scientific knowledge. Albertini comments in this regard, “We derive our principles of conduct from that which cannot be established scientifically”. There are two possible attitudes to this. If one regards values as purely subjective choices, one abandons “morality… to individual judgement” and regards “the boundary between the scientific and the non-scientific purely from one side, with the resulting danger of extrapolating its results and falling into scientism”. If, on the other hand, one adopts the perspective of the philosophy of history, “One can see the dividing line from both sides… and need not leave to individual judgement that which, although not scientifically knowable and empirically verifiable, can nevertheless be examined by pure reason”.[10]
By adopting this stance, Albertini distances himself considerably from Max Weber’s definition of the world of values, although still remaining in his debt as regards the fundamental orientation of his methodology of the historical and social sciences.
What Albertini questions is the assertion that values are merely choices “subjective in origin”,[11] and consequently he confines value choices to the sphere of the irrational. According to this view, value choices are all equally legitimate and arbitrary. This is what Weber defines the polytheism of values. Of course Weber does not disregard the dual “relation to values” that conditions all scientific research — the choice of the subject and the direction of research — and he does confront values head on with a technical critique that leads to determining the adequacy of the means to an end. He observes that when faced with a virtually infinite quantity of empirical data, an historical or sociological inquiry is impossible without privileging certain aspects of experience and relations between phenomena, thus making a choice based on certain specific interests or values. In other words, he acknowledges that it is impossible to eliminate the value dimension from scientific research, because values lead knowledge. Yet the inevitable relation to value of scientific research does not question the possibility of reaching “objective” results, viewed as such even by those who started out with different and opposite assumptions and interests.
Though he acknowledged that our better understanding of society owes much to last century’s developments in the historical and social sciences, Albertini distances himself from those who conceive of science as the only legitimate form of thought. In light of the triumph of sociology, economics, political science, psychology and anthropology, the only yardstick for measuring the validity of thought seems to be that which takes as its model the method of natural science.
The fact is the science is merely one aspect of thought, and there are other fundamental aspects of existence that fall outside the reach of scientific knowledge. Man’s eternal questions about his nature and fate — who are we? where do we come from? where are we going? — cannot find their answers within the framework of science. Problems such as the principles of morality, political ideas, the meaning of history, the inevitability of death, all need to be approached from a different dimension of thought, from philosophy primarily, and must be submitted to other criteria of control. The problems of philosophy and more specifically the whole area of value choices, are a dimension of research which cannot be probed by scientific methods. There is no doubt that the criteria of control upon which philosophy is based (logical consistency) never lead to genuine certainty, but according to Albertini this does not mean that mankind “treads a path of complete obscurity. Men strive towards well defined goals, even if they do not have the certainty they will reach them, and the illustration of these goals, the philosophy of history, is the only means of comprehending the meaning of their journey, and — for that matter — of describing real facts, if one limits the description to their progress without anticipating the achievement of the goal.”[12]
Unlike Spinelli, Albertini believes that history has a sense. He postulates the existence of a common language shared by all men, which permits ongoing communication and dialogue between the living, the dead and posterity. The institution of a new political order is not, as it is for Spinelli, something created out of nothing by a solitary actor. It is a collective effort of many men participating in a common undertaking: to improve the conditions of human kind.
Political Debate: the Only Pathway to Truth.
For Albertini political debate was crucial, because he regarded thought as a collective construction. He believed that dialogue was the most effective method for gradually approaching truth through the constant questioning of every aspect of a problem, and the continuous testing of hypotheses against facts as they are perceived by individual experience and elaborated by individual thought. The application of this method does not bring about any hierarchy in school between teachers and students, nor in politics between the leaders and the led; the search for truth is shared by all and even the very young can make a significant contribution. In accordance with his dialectical conception of history, Albertini rejects theories that view the real world as a closed system capable of yielding a final answer to the problems of life. “If you ask them [to written words] a question, they preserve a solemn silence…; if you want to know anything and put a question… [they] give one unvarying answer”, says a passage in Plato’s Phaedrus,[13] in which Socrates emphasizes the inadequacy of the written word. Albertini, in tune with this point of view, conceives thought to be an “unended quest”, to use the title of Karl Popper’s autobiography. Of course he felt that for every problem that the Federalist Movement faced there could be only one truth. But this was an asymptotic idea that could be approached but never actually possessed.
I was always impressed by the way Albertini jotted down notes while listening to other speakers in a debate; at the end he would tuck the notes away in his pocket. This behaviour clearly shows that he was eager to learn something from the debate, which he considered to be the path to truth. This is particularly true when the issue is the building of the groundwork for a new political culture such as federalism. It is a task that requires a long term approach, demanding the efforts of a whole generation of scholars.
Albertini had such deep faith in the political debate that he advocated a reform of the statute of the European Federalist Movement, institutionalizing a “Debates Office” in order to promote a free exchange of the views of all members, and the broadest possible participation in elaborating the political line. Special attention is given to the need to focus the debate on so-called “theoretical emergencies”, i.e. issues that are important but do not require immediate decisions. The purpose of a debate on these issues is to bring out a common perspective, supplying the information and clarifications necessary to pave the way for largely shared political choices.
Towards a New Paradigm of Politics.
Albertini enshrined in his writings many fundamental aspects pertaining to the new theory of politics: the theory of the national state, the theory of federalism, the theory of the European unification, a definition of the federalist strategy. However, a large proportion of his thoughts never materialized in written form. These aspects primarily concern more abstract theories which he discussed during university lectures or talks within the Federalist movement. Snippets of his general theory of politics are scattered here and there in the pages of his books, but they were never organized systematically in essays providing a comprehensive overview. The aims of Albertini’s theoretical research were to devise a new paradigm of politics. This was an unfinished endeavour, at least in respect of a formal elaboration, though in those of his works that have been published there are important indications that define the contours of the theory.
In any case, there is no doubt that the elaboration of a new paradigm of politics constitutes a necessary objective for a revolutionary movement that proposed to set out the foundations of an action-oriented philosophy. Lenin, it must be remembered, stated that: “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement”.[14]
Federalism’s striving for autonomy makes it a viable alternative to the other forms of contemporary political thought, primarily nationalism, but also liberalism, democracy and socialism. The struggle for national power has caused these ideologies to sacrifice their original universalistic inspirations to national egoism. Albertini’s working plan was to attempt to elaborate a theoretical model for political analysis out of a series of theoretical contributions from different disciplines: historical materialism, the theory of raison d’état and the theory of ideology.
Historical Materialism: an Ideal Type Upon which to Base the Architecture of the Social Sciences.
To start with, Albertini uses historical materialism as a scientific theory in which evolution of the mode of production represents the overriding factor determining, in the final instance the course of history and social change. The assumption on which he bases this conception of society and history is the empirical observation that the first condition of human history consists of concrete individuals producing the means of their subsistence. The cornerstone and organizing principle of society as a whole is the mode of production.
Albertini submitted to a critical revision historical materialism, which he considered as the most general ideal type supplying the fundamental building block upon which to base the architecture of the social sciences. Here is how he explains his viewpoint: “If one does not confuse the concept of social production with other less general concepts of class or economics in the specific sense, or consider the evolution of the means of production as the necessary and sufficient cause, but rather as merely the necessary cause of historical change, …one cannot but admit that: a) the mode of production is truly the most general historical phenomenon; and b) the dimension and nature of all other social phenomena must necessarily correspond to it (i.e. social phenomena in the broadest sense: economic, juridical, political, cultural etc.)”.[15]
Albertini rejects economic determinism, the so-called vulgar Marxism. In accordance with this explanation, the type of determination exercised by the mode of production is viewed in strictly mechanical terms and proceeds only in one direction. Specifically, the mode of production is seen as the sole factor influencing the nature of political, juridical, cultural, religious and other phenomena. It has been underscored in this respect that historical materialism may be employed as an explanatory scheme compatible with the mutual influence of political, juridical, cultural and religious factors on material production. To cite just one example, Max Weber in his works on the sociology of religion, highlights how the ethics of religions has influenced the evolution of economic systems. Historical materialism can be regarded as a “canon of historical interpretation”, in the words so aptly crafted by Benedetto Croce,[16] and not as the only yardstick for a comprehensive and exhaustive explanation of the course of history.
Concerning the crucial issue of the state and relations between the mode of production and the state, Albertini distances himself from the Marxist conception of the state as “the organized power of one class for the oppression of another”. “The state depends on society”, he remarks, “but this dependence is not automatic: the state is not an instrument in the hands of the privileged classes. The state has an autonomous cause, the possible mediation of interests. All interests share in this mediation, though some are stronger than others. But it is the weakest that most need the state to assert themselves. The state cannot eliminate the domination that exists within society. But this does not mean that the state is nothing but a pure and simple consequence of social domination. Domination is social. Now, if historical factors weaken the state, social domination becomes stronger. The fact is that: one, the state is not just the result of the domination of social conflict; it is also the result of the domination of universal vital primary needs, and two, that the state constitutes a hindrance to, not an aggravation of the social domination which arises objectively from material relations of force.”
Albertini defines as vulgar Marxism the assumption that: “the economy controls, or can control, politics. In general, as the history of our century clearly demonstrates, it is politics that controls the economy and not vice versa, though politics and consequently also the economy, are in the last instance controlled by the mode of production, which cannot be reduced to economics, i.e. production and exchange.”[17]
The state and the world system of states constitute the juridical and political framework in which the process of production unfolds. For Marx and Engels they have a superstructural, but by no means irrelevant role, in determining the course of history. Without the state, in other words, without public order, and a defence system against other states and without a minimum level of international order, the production process would not be able to function. Relations between historical-social processes and political structures are, to use the imagery of Trotsky, “like those that exist between steam and a cylinder and piston. Yet motion relies on steam, not on the cylinder or piston”.[18]
The structures of power thus possess a “relative autonomy”, in that they obey the specific laws of politics, which only “in the last instance” are obliged to bow to the demands of the economy. So that while negligible changes in the mode of production have no repercussions on the superstructure, all the great milestones in the evolution of the mode of production have upset the superstructure and forced it to adapt to the demands of social production. Relations between the economic structure and the political superstructure are, as Engels wrote: “a reciprocal action between two unequal forces”, in which the role of the superstructure may be either to favour the development of productive forces (when there is “correspondence” between productive forces, productive relations and the political superstructure) or hinder them (when there is not that “correspondence”).[19]
This theory allows Albertini to formulate an overall analysis and assessment of contemporary society, and identifies the basic tendency driving history in ourtime, as “the tendency towards the unification of the human kind”. This is an irreversible tendency, which Albertini describes as follows: “In the early stages of the industrial revolution, the growth of the interdependence of human action developed primarily in depth, within states. Then through the liberal and democratic struggle of the bourgeoisie against the aristocracy and the socialist struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, this phase first intensified then overcame the division of evolved societies into rival classes. However, because of this integration, there has also been a simultaneous division of human beings into separate groups comprised of bureaucratic states, and idealized in an ideological representation, as something like kinship: ‘nations’. The spreading interdependence of human action will smash the division of the human race into nations.” He concludes by stating: “We have already embarked on the historical process that will disarm nations, uniting them in a world Federation”.[20]
A Reformulation of the Theory of Raison d’Etat.
Albertini’s use of historical materialism enables him to identify the basic tendency of contemporary history. But the adoption of this theoretical assumption is not per se sufficient to provide a framework for federalist action. Revolutionary action is a political action tending primarily to transform the structures of power. Hence the importance of political analysis.
The second theoretical assumption formulated by Albertini consists in the recovery and reinterpretation of the theory of raison d’état. He views this theory as a fundamental key — the most suitable of several for approaching a concrete analysis of politics. It rests on the postulate that in political life, the prevalent behaviours are those which reinforce security and the power of the state.
There is an internal component of raison d’état which embodies the need of the state to assert its sovereignty with respect to other centres of power within its territory — in other words, to attribute to government the monopoly of force and to the state control over civil society. And there is also an external component of raison d’état, which stems from the distribution of power among a plurality of sovereign states in conflict amongst themselves. With the consolidation of the modern state and its sovereignty, the external component has become the most significant and prominent manifestation of the raison d’état. Because the world is divided into sovereign states which do not recognize any higher power, force dominates international relations and security is at the top of governments’ agendas. “What results”, writes Albertini, “is a situation of universal insecurity and a constant state of tension and military preparedness — a situation rightly described by federalists as ‘international anarchy’ — and the authoritarian degeneration of states. Economic disarray is another consequence.”[21]
To guarantee security, governments are willing to sacrifice all other values of political coexistence and to use any means — they will even breach juridical and moral norms if necessary. Raison d’état is thus a blind and irresistible driving force that does not tolerate limitations and imposes itself on all statesmen irregardless of the principles that inspire their political action. This is not the free choice of a value, such as war rather than peace, or authoritarianism rather than freedom. It is an acknowledgement of the need to adapt the structure and policy of the state to the domestic and international conditions for its survival.
The dominant culture deems the theory of raison d’état to be obsolete. On the one hand, it is conceived as indissolubly linked to an historic era, the era of the formation of the modern state, and to the absolutist structure of the latter. On the other hand, it is felt that raison d’état was defeated by the humanization of political power brought about by the liberal, democratic and socialist transformation of the state.
Nonetheless, when the circumstances of political life make it necessary to resort to force, raison d’état — though rejected in theory — is welcomed in practice. With its need to survive in a hostile environment, the behaviour of politicians tends constantly to break all links with the universal principles enshrined in state Constitutions (and the general rules adopted by its institutions). The compromise imposed by the raison d’état between values and facts, goes so far as to justify the degeneration of liberal states into fascism and communist states into Stalinism. This refusal of raison d’état in principle, alongside its acceptance in practice is a contradiction in traditional political thought that proves how solid are the foundations of political analysis based on the notion of raison d’état. But it also proves that the mainstream politics fails to understand a fundamental — indeed essential — aspect of political life. Of course the latter operates on the basis of its own laws, even when these are not recognized by politicians.
In Albertini’s view, federalism alone properly interprets the theory of raison d’état with accuracy. He states that: “only the goal of peace, which requires that the politics of all states — not just one’s own — be controlled in the general interest, renders international politics something that depends on human will. In all other cases, when there is a determination to directly control only the politics of one’s own state, international politics will above all depend on which turn the clash between states takes, i.e. on a factor transcending the will of every state… Only the theory of a supernational government, and the consequent understanding that it is possible to control relations and stop contentions between states, depicts international relations as a process crafted by man and subject to man’s decisions, hence also an activity whose cause is well known and perfectly explainable.”[22]
The theory of raison d’état does not therefore offer itself as the eternal law of politics, but rather as the theory of politics of a specific historical phase, that of international anarchy. It “must be viewed as something that emerges with a certain type of political organization (the system of sovereign and exclusive states, the armed defence of national independence, the need for nations to maximize their might, the subordination of all nations to the hierarchy of relations of force and of all values to that of national defence), and falls with another type of organization (world federation, the independence of nations ensured by law, the equality of nations as a consequence of the elimination of armed defence and hence also of the hierarchy established by relations of force).” The novelty of federalism consists in having established “the boundaries within which the concept [of raison d’état] can and must be applied”.[23]
According to Friedrich Meinecke, the theory of raison d’état is “the science that provides the key to interpreting history”.[24] However, by suggesting that relations of force between states — viewed as the determining factor for understanding and explaining the course of history — become the focus of all historical analyses, this theory leads to unilateral interpretations. In reality, it singles out only one of the laws commanding the historical process. Its field of application must be limited to the relatively autonomous sphere of politics. Viewed within these limits, the theory of raison d’état is a scheme of analysis capable of making an irreplaceable contribution to the understanding of history. If the viewpoint adopted is that of raison d’état, then the state can be regarded not as an isolated entity, but as a subsystem of the system of states. Accordingly, the form of the state and its policies are not portrayed as the product solely of domestic policy, but also of relations between the state and other states. “Modern historical science”, writes Meinecke, “has so far made more extensive use of the doctrine of raison d’état, than political science, which in many respects is still influenced by the consequences of the old method aiming at the absolute, the search for the best state… rather than the concrete one”.[25]
Despite the enormous development of empirical research in the field of politics, this remark still remains largely true. Political science is still very far from the formulation of a general theory. Albertini often stated that “a babel of languages spreads through the social sciences”, and recommended giving “a negative replay to the question of the existence of a science of politics…, that has not yet achieved results that are at least equal to those achieved by Adam Smith in his understanding of economic facts”.[26] This observation is confirmed by the fact that political investigation, especially when it probes political classes, pressure groups, elections and so on, remains heavily influenced by the categories of the national culture, which reflect the limitations of the traditional ideologies (liberalism, democracy and socialism).
Escaping this approach, that focuses research on to an individual isolated state, are the complex relations between domestic politics and international politics, between the state and the system of states. Insofar as scientific investigation attributes the study of international relations to internationalistic disciplines and separates the study of internal politics from international politics, it runs the risk of turning into a hindrance to the progress of knowledge. So it remains utterly true that serious historiography, especially as inspired by Leopold von Ranke, has been more capable than political science to identify the influence that relations of force between states exercise on domestic policy and on the very constitution of states. Thus, historiography has provided the impetus to “have a theory of politics in its unity”, through research that analyzes the links existing between internal and international politics, and places the study of the state within the framework “of the world balance of power”.[27]
To define the theoretical approach of raison d’état as the principle of “the primacy of foreign policy” implies opting for a vision of the political process that is just as unilateral and distorted as the one that stems from theories based on the decisive nature of “internal factors”: the so-called principle of the “primacy of domestic policy”. The proper context for studying all political actions is that of the system of states, which today has acquired the form of a world system of states, and the course of international politics is determined as much by political struggle within the states, as by the structure of the system of states. The contribution that all states make towards steering international politics is proportional to the power they hold and their ranking in the system of states. However, the adoption of raison d’état as an analytical method neglects the criterion offered by the materialistic conception of history, which highlights the influence of the social structure on the political superstructure and explains the different forms of the state on the basis of evolutions in the modes of production. The mistake made by the school of historiography inspired by Ranke is the opposite to that made by Marxism, which neglects the role of raison d’état and unilaterally emphasizes the effect that the development of the means of production has had on history.
These two models are generally regarded as incompatible, much like the political and cultural movements that generated them. However, it takes little to prove that, when taken separately, neither model can adequately account for a vast field of variability, whilst jointly they are able to describe correlations that would otherwise be inexplicable. For instance, historical materialism explains the relationship between industrialization and the birth of modern bureaucratic states of national dimensions. However, the distinction between the rigid and centralized structure of the states of continental Europe and the flexible and decentralized structure of Great Britain is not just due to differences in the structure of their productive systems. The only thing that can explain this distinction is a political factor: the different role played by the continental powers with respect to the insular power in the system of states, stemming from the fact that the former were more exposed than the latter to the risk of aggression. The fact is that the different structure of those states cannot be explained by a difference in the structure of the productive system. It is completely incorrect to consider states, whatever form they may assume in any given era, as the sole product of economic and social development. For example, Great Britain and France are both unitary states, but their reaction to the issues raised by the advent of the industrial society was different and they forged quite different constitutional structures. It can therefore be stated that their institutions reflect the problems of the same era, but arise out of different political circumstances.
These remarks suggest an interesting working hypothesis based on the complementary nature of the models of historical materialism and raison d’état, viewed as parts of a unified theory of the historical-political process. In essence, Albertini’s theoretical hypothesis is the following: historical materialism should be conceived as a general model explaining the link existing between a certain stage of the evolution of the mode of production and the dimension and form of states and the system of states, while the field of variability that historical materialism does not define is covered by the theory of raison d’état, viewed as the theory based on the principle of the relative autonomy of political power with respect to the evolution of the mode of production. If adequately explored, the theory according to which these two approaches are complementary seems to take us closer than each of the social sciences to understanding and predicting the course of history.
The Theory of Ideology.
The third theory formulated by Albertini is that of ideology, conceived as the form assumed by thought in the political sphere. The development of ideologies was accompanied by the conviction that history can be object of rational comprehension. But this was only a partially founded conviction, since besides technical capacities of controlling social reality, ideologies contained elements of self-mystification. The word ideology itself has two different meanings. Albertini’s observation is the following: “Though it may be inevitable in everyday language (after Marx) to equate the term ‘ideology’ with political and social self-mystification, it is not possible to reduce ‘ideologies’ (in the plural, hence liberalism and so on) to a mere ‘ideology’ (in the singular, hence self-mystification). It makes no sense to put liberalism, socialism and so on in the same basket as self-mystification. The great ideologies of the past, up to Marxism, largely constitute our political-cultural heritage and the tools we employ for analyzing historical and social matters, though it is plain that this is a non-critical learning — wisdom is the only yardstick — and that for this reason, it is within these ideologies that ideology manifests itself as self-mystification.” Based on this premise, the systematic link between the two notions of ideology can be defined in the following terms: “As a mental process, self-mystification depends… on the confusion between value judgements and statements of fact. Consequently, if the values are highlighted and set apart, any facts disguised as values will collapse, and only values disguised as facts will be retrieved. This proves that self-mystification does not emerge, or can be suppressed, if values as such are elaborated or re-elaborated as such, in other words as the model for a desirable situation, without mistaking the elaboration of the model or goal for an understanding of the means of achieving it.”[28]
Thus ideologies are formulas for analyzing society and history in order to control them and bring about their change. Ideologies define a political design which highlights the relevance of an historical period through the primacy of its corresponding institutions and values.
According to Albertini, ideology is the form assumed by active political thought: a conceptual system that permits the convergence of thought crucial to the cohesion of a political grouping and the consistency of its principles of action. Its active nature distinguishes it from philosophical and religious thought, i.e. it is action-oriented.
When Albertini tackled the problem of defining the notion of federalism, he came up against the shortcomings of current definitions which limited themselves to the institutional aspect, and he felt the need to develop a more comprehensive theory that would distinguish the value aspect from the structural and historical-social aspect. Albertini contended that such an analytical approach was applicable to all ideologies.[29] The value aspect defines the goal pursued by the ideology. The structural aspect explores the way power must be organized to achieve the goal. The historical-social aspect defines the historical context within which it is possible to realize a value through the appropriate power structure.
Federalism as an Ideology.
Viewed from this standpoint, federalism becomes a far vaster subject than that covered by the theory of federal institutions. Yet even today, in the wake of The Federalist, many scholars continue to cultivate a narrow approach. In his book on federalism, Albertini remarks that the institutions are conditioned by society, which represents the infrastructure of the institutions, and the latter, in turn, constitute governmental tools for generating political decisions and thus pursuing specific values. Therefore, any comprehensive definition of federalism demands that alongside the institutional aspect, should also consider the historical-social aspect and the value aspect. If all three elements are taken into account, federalism becomes an ideology that has a structure (the federal state), value (peace) and an historical and social aspect (the overcoming of society’s division into classes and nations). The value aspect of federalism is peace. Federalism is to peace what liberalism is to freedom, democracy to equality and socialism to social justice.
In this respect, Albertini shares Kant’s political, juridical and philosophical-historical standpoint, which has been put at the top of the political agenda by the crisis of the national state and the expansion — across borders — of the interdependence of human action, of which European unification is the most highly developed embodiment. These phenomena should be regarded as the premises for perpetual peace through the construction of a world federation. Denying the nation, with European federation, means denying “the culture that fosters the political division of the human kind” and at the same time, affirming “within nations” a “truly human… multinational model, …the political culture of the unity of the human kind”.[30] World wars and the nuclear weaponry would seem to suggest that Kant was correct when he predicted that it is only by experiencing the destructiveness of war that states would relinquish their “savage freedom” and bow to a common law.
The structural aspect of federalism lies in the federal state, which promotes the overcoming of the closed and centralized structures of the national state with the formation, downstream, of genuine regional and local autonomies, and the realization, upstream, of effective forms of political and social solidarity, above and beyond national states.
The historical and social aspect of federalism consists in overcoming the division of the human kind into rival classes and nations: only thus can the pluralism develop that is typical of a federal society, and is expressed by the principle of unity in diversity. In federal societies, there is a level playing field in which loyalty towards the overall society actually coexists with loyalty towards smaller local communities — regions, provinces, cities, neighbourhoods and so on. But this social balance has developed only partially in past federal societies, because on the one hand class struggle has made the sense of belonging to a class prevail over all other forms of social solidarity and prevented strong bonds of solidarity from taking root in regional and local communities, and on the other, the struggle between states at the international level has strengthened the central authority at the expense of local powers.
The notion of federalism as an ideology does not just highlight the limitations of the reductionist approach, which defines federalism as merely a constitutional technique (K.C. Wheare). Albertini’s critique is addressed also to such visions as the integral federalism of Alexandre Marc or Denis de Rougemont and that of Daniel Elazar, which define federalism as unity in diversity. Albertini calls this a generic and historically indeterminate concept, which traces the roots of federalism back to the dim and distant past, when the first forms of association emerged between tribes, and detects traces of it in all eras, from the leagues between the free cities of ancient Greece, to the Roman Empire, the city-republics of medieval Italy and Germany, the Holy Roman Empire and so on. The concept elaborated by Albertini, instead, has major consequences on the periodization of federalism. In his view, representative democracy constitutes an essential requirement for federal institutions. The outcome of this assumption is that the United States of America represent the archetypal federation. Hence it is not possible to class as federal any of the earlier political formations listed above: though they feature an institutional framework based on the decentralization of power, nonetheless they did not have a democratic structure. At most they can be classified as the precursors of federalism.
Crisis of the National State and European Unification.
In keeping with the above definition, Albertini divided the development of federalist thought into three phases. The first phase, going from the French Revolution to the first world war, is characterized by the emergence, still only in principle, of the community and cosmopolitan component of federalism, opposed to the authoritarian and warlike aspects of the national state. The second phase is the period between the two world wars, when the criteria of federalism were resorted to to interpret the crisis of the national state and the European states system. The first phase began after the second world war and is still ongoing: in this phase the conceptual schemes and political and institutional tools of federalism are necessary for resolving the crisis of Europe.
It is easier to understand the significance of federalism if one starts looking at it from the point of view of what it negates, rather than what it affirms. In point of fact, the positive determinations of federalist theory have gradually become clear through the experience of refusing both the division of the mankind into sovereign states and the centralization of political power. Since these phenomena have appeared most distinctly in the Europe of nations, federalism has primarily cast itself as the negation of the national state.
The first task of Albertini’s research programme was to elaborate a theory of the nation.[31] His aim was to tear apart the nation-centric paradigm of politics, which is the embodiment of an archaic culture unable to deal with the major issues of the contemporary world. The method used by Albertini was to define the nation on the basis of the empirical observation of human behaviour. The national behaviour is a behaviour of loyalty; its objective landmark is the state, which is regarded not as such, but rather as an illusory entity linked to cultural, aesthetic, sporting experiences whose specific nature is not national. Albertini wonders why an Italian, admiring the Gulf of Naples, claims that: “Italy is beautiful”. At the heart of this statement lies a political phenomenon. When people attend national schools, celebrate national holidays, pay national taxes, and are conscripted into the national armed forces to be trained to kill and be killed for the nation, they express these behaviours in terms of loyalty to a mythical entity, the nation, an idealized representation of the bureaucratic and centralized states. Such an idealization of reality is the mental reflection of relations of power between individual and the national state. Albertini stretched the notion of ideology, which Marx had restricted to class positions, to include relations of power within the state. On this basis it is possible to demystify the idea of nation, which started out originally as a revolutionary idea and today has become an element of conservatism. Insofar as it depicts the political division between nations as something right and natural, even sacred, it opposes the basic trend of contemporary history towards the internationalization of the production process, which demands that the state should organize itself on a vast political space along multinational and federal lines.
Federalism’s negation of the national state appeared as far back as the French Revolution, when nationalism was also in its infancy, but initially and for quite some time emphasis was placed on principles and values. At that time, the conditions had not yet arisen for federalism to represent a viable political alternative to the organization of Europe into national states, and foster political action. However, the roots of federalism’s opposition to the system of national states were deep. It is unreasonable to regard the liberal, democratic and socialist values that in the 19th century brought about new models of political coexistence, but were only partially and precariously realized within national states, as limited only to the national arena. On the other hand, the extension of those values to Europe as a whole, as a pathway to universal application, is impossible without employing federal institutions. The situation changed with the coming of the industrial society — specifically the second phase of the industrialization process that “increases the intensity and frequency of relations between the individuals of different state, expanding the sphere of international politics”.[32] A new phenomenon now begins to emerge: the crisis of the national state,[33] the concept on which the theoretical autonomy of contemporary federalism is founded. This concept matches what liberal thought calls the crisis of the ancien régime, and socialism and communism call the crisis of capitalism; and through it, the basic contradiction of an entire era can be detected, and a global historical assessment formulated. It is the concept that both Trotsky and Einaudi employed to explain the first world war. German imperialism is seen as the negative expression of Europe’s need for unity. The alternative to a Europe unified by violence is represented for both by the United States of Europe. But only after the second world war did the issue of European unity acquire a political nature. The process of European integration represents the historical issue that lies at the heart of Albertini’s theoretical elaboration. He devised an impressive amount of analytical categories which, together, constitute the complex conceptual framework needed to master the process both theoretically and practically. There is too little space here to illustrate the many relevant aspects, so I will simply provide the main features of Albertini’s interpretation.
In the period following the second world war, the national states were “no longer able on their own to fulfil the two fundamental tasks of any state: economic development and the defence of their citizens”. Hence the crisis of consensus towards national institutions. National governments were consequently “permanently faced with the choice of ‘divided we fall, united we stand’… Their very raison d’état gives them no other option than to resolve their problems jointly”.[34]
In 1968 Albertini reached the conclusion the European integration had become “irreversible”. His argument goes like this: “Integration in the ambit of ‘the Six’ is merely the most advanced stage of a much vaster process of integration of human activity at the world level whose character seems to be that of the beginning of a new historical cycle, that is, of an irresistible historical force. Naturally, an evolution of this kind is not immune to crises or even periods of stagnation or regression, crises or periods that could even, hypothetically, affect the Common Market. But it does exclude, in principle, the possibility of a lasting return to a closed domestic market forms”. He concludes that the irreversibility of the process depends “on the evolution of the mode of production, i.e. on a primary historical factor”.[35]
Albertini dedicated much of his intellectual energy to studying European unification, which he viewed as the foremost expression of the supranational course of history. Federalism is the formula that enables this process to be understood and controlled. Federalism today has a role comparable to what liberalism, democracy and socialism were in the past: through the development and dissemination of the culture of peace, federalism propounds a society capable of resolving the critical issues of our time; it reopens the possibility of thinking of the future, which was overshadowed in traditional ideologies because of the exhaustion of their revolutionary thrust.
However, to rise to this challenge, federalism must renew itself, elaborate new categories of analysis, and invent new institutional formulas. It asserts that it is “a new world, that mankind will learn to understand as it is built”.[36] European Federation represents thus the crucial event of our time, the first real federal unification ever achieved, insofar as it will unite historically consolidated nations. It will represent a milestone in our history, the beginning of the unification of the human kind. In contrast, the significance of all the Federations that have existed until now was that of having created a new state in a world divided into states, in which the political division of mankind seemed to be an insurmountable condition.
European Federation will arise “from the negation of the political division of the human kind”. According to Albertini, “This is historically, the most important thing. National culture, conceived as the theory of the political division of the human kind, is one which by mystifying liberalism, democracy and socialism — soviet or otherwise — legitimated the duty to kill. A duty negated by a culture that historically negates the political division of the human kind. It is a vindication in the sphere of thought of the political — not just the spiritual — right not to kill, and hence the historical framework for the struggle to affirm this right in practice, above and beyond European Federation, with the world federation”.[37]
Federalism and Other Ideologies.
As we have seen, the goal of peace defines federalism as an independent ideology. The approach to the issue of peace and war defines the main difference separating federalism from other ideologies.
When the theorists of liberalism, democracy and socialism looked at the future of international relations, they imagined that people, unshackled from the domination of the monarchy, the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and capitalism and as such, masters of their fate, would no longer resort to war. In short, it can be stated that liberalism, democracy and socialism share a common view of international politics, a view defined as internationalism: they interpret international politics using the same categories with which they explain domestic politics; they attribute international tensions and wars exclusively to the nature of the internal structures of states; and they consider peace as the automatic and necessary consequence of the transformation of the internal structures of states. Thus, internationalism is a political conception which in theory does not attribute any autonomy to the international political system with respect to the internal structure of individual states, or to foreign policy with respect to domestic policy; and in practice prioritizes the spread of freedom and equality within the individual states, at the expense of achieving peace and international order.
As Kant put it, peace becomes possible only if the states that join the world Federation have a republican constitution, in which each citizen accepts limitations to the exercise of their freedom, by obeying a common set of laws which everyone else is also willing to respect, having together contributed to drafting it.[38] In other words, freedom and equality are not vehicles of peace but merely “premises for peace”.[39] The fulfilment of these principles allows for the achievement of a form of civil coexistence, featuring peaceable relations between individual, i.e. social pace. And social peace must be regarded as a requirement for international peace. On the other hand, the decision to join the Federation must be a free choice: this is the difference between Federation and Empire.
Conversely, federalism considers international anarchy as a hindrance to consolidating freedom, democracy and social justice within states, and sees peace — the creation of an international juridical order — as the condition for defeating the warlike and authoritarian tendencies always simmering under the surface of the state. This viewpoint is a radical reversal of the prevalent thinking among followers of liberalism, democracy and socialism, who still today place the reform of the state above the achievement of international order, and delude themselves that peace will automatically flow from the dissemination of liberal, democratic and socialist principles within the individual states. So a clear-cut but generally unrecognized criterion is identified, which explains not only the reason why the dissemination of liberal, democratic and socialist principles has failed to usher in an era of peace, but also why these principles have taken such an incomplete and precarious foothold in a world of clashing sovereign states.
In conclusion, to quote Albertini’s formula, “whilst the historical affirmation of each of these ideologies is one of the premises to peace, peace (as world government) in its turn is the necessary premise for their complete realisation, and this immediately shows that it is not possible to construct peace by merely strengthening these ideologies”.[40]
Accordingly, federalism does not compete with the other ideologies, but complements them. This means that federalism “does not represent an alternative ideology to liberalism, democracy and socialism which, having promoted and organized the liberation of the middle class, the lower middle class and the working class, over the course of history became rivals — each of them excluding the others — thus obstructing the realization of their respective values of freedom and equality, which as such are complementary and not alternative. As a result, federalism does not need to smother liberalism, democracy and socialism in order to grow; on the contrary, federalism can thrive only by cooperating to complete the achievement of freedom and equality through peace, for which only federalism can provide the appropriate moral, institutional and historical setting”.[41]
Normative Models and the Philosophy of History.
The study of federalism points out that this concept includes a value aspect, a normative dimension, which is typical of all crucial concepts in the vocabulary of politics, starting from the term “politics” and including words like state, power, consent, legitimacy, freedom, democracy, peace and so on, which define contemporary facts and values. Politics, states, powers, consent, legitimacy, freedom and democracy have been something limited, provisional, contingent and — ultimately — contradictory. Just one example is sufficient to clarify this twofold aspect of the categories of politics. As Machiavelli noted, politics belongs to two different worlds: “You must know… that there are two methods of fighting: the one by laws the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beast”.[42] Politics is an activity through which conflicts can be resolved by legal means or by violent means. Generally speaking, it can be stated that the former tend to prevail within states, whilst the latter prevail in relations between states, since states do not recognize a higher power governing their relations.
While it may be true that throughout the course of history, these two aspects of politics have always coexisted, it is equally true that they constitute a tear in the fabric of political coexistence, and a contradiction in the meanings of political life. An empirical analysis of politics will always be a partial one, suggesting the idea of a goal as yet unachieved: that of politics set free of violence.
When Albertini originally embarked on his meditation on politics, elaborating his own set of categories within the framework of political science,[43] he soon realized that the descriptive or empirical approach would never lead to a thorough analysis of the problems of politics. “Politics is not really itself”, observed Albertini, “if it accepts the concurrent existence alongside the sphere of truly legal relations of a sphere of relations of force and oppression… This idea… of politics, though a constant throughout history, and an aspect typical… of politics in its evolutionary process, has not yet become one of the elements contributing to a positive understanding of social reality. This idea is still restricted to the fields of utopia and ideology… The positive study of facts, on the other hand, is in turn also restricted to so-called ‘realism’… which, in truth, is by no means realistic, but rather reductive, since it does not consider ideals to be real.”[44]
In Albertini’s view, the study of authors like Kant, as regards peace, and Proudhon, as regards ownership, makes it possible to overcome the theoretical limits of a separate examination of the twin aspects of politics. “Starting from a primary observable fact, the empirical characteristics” of strength relations, which arise respectively in ownership or in international relations, “and a primary fact that can be theorized, the revolutionary transformation of human behaviour, Proudhon was able to demonstrate that… the economy becomes itself, in other words, can only be truly founded on labour, only if it arises from the foundations of the law, as opposed to a wild clash of interests, clearing the field of the overwhelming of the weak on the part of the strong”,[45]
 and Kant was able to demonstrate that politics becomes itself if it abolishes violence from international relations, so that “every nation, even the smallest, can expect to have security and rights not by virtue of its own might or its own declarations regarding what is right but from this great federation of peoples (foedus amphictyonum), alone, a united might and from decisions made by the united will with laws”.[46]
In conclusion, both Proudhon and Kant believed that strength relations were a form of social pathology, while the normative models they elaborated represented “as a whole, the model for social physiology”.[47]
The elaboration of normative models meets the need to give moral values a rational basis. The features of these models must not be drawn from experience, but elaborated autonomously by reason. Kant stated in this regard: “Those who want to draw from experience the concepts of virtue… would make of virtue a vain and equivocal name, variable according to the times and circumstances, and untenable as a rule”.[48]
Philosophy employs concepts a priori: this is probably the main reason for the discredit that has been cast upon the philosophy of history in contemporary culture.[49] However, the fact that the ultimate goal of history is defined a priori and thus represents a predetermined objective, does not constitute a drawback for Kant. On the one hand, reason obliges the human kind to strive to spread peace, and indicates the world Federation as the only model of political organization in which all men can be free and equal, and on the other, this goal can only be reached — or at least approached — if men themselves foster progress in that direction.
The rationale on which Kant founds his own progressive philosophy of history is that there is an “innate duty” in each man, which obliges him “so to affect posterity that it will become continually better”. And he adds this thought: “History may well give rise to so many doubts… as to whether we may hope anything better for the human race, yet this uncertainty can detract neither from the maxim that from a practical point of view it is attainable, nor from the presupposition of its necessity.”[50]
Albertini’s mindset as far as politics is concerned, is that of a scientist, but a very special sort of scientist, with an active attitude towards politics. Though politics is an expression of “the attempt to submit the future to the plans of reason. This also implies that reason may have a role in history (i.e. that history has a sense); it also implies a definite choice in favour of progress, instead of wondering abstractly if it is possible or impossible, thus avoiding the catastrophic error of applying reason to everything except that which decides everything: the course of history.”[51]
In point of fact, normative models represent the essential terms of comparison for formulating an opinion not only of the constitutions, but also of the legislations that states adopt; to measure not only the proximity of the historical forms of political organization to the ideal form of a political order, but also the function of each political action with respect to a given goal. Above all normative models are necessary for determining if an action is compatible or not with that goal, and if it steers progress in that direction. Without making constant reference to the goal, progress cannot be measured. Normative models are thus like the North Star for sailors on the night sea. Metaphors aside, they are a reference point that sheds light on history as it unfolds. Consequently, their role is all the more important in relation to the problems of political action. In a nutshell, they are a necessary dimension for political action: by its very nature, political action is projected into the future, and thus requires yardstick against which to establish the meaning and direction of political choices. Politicians who propose to improve the conditions of political coexistence must understand the solution to the problems posed by history, and therefore the tools for subjecting social processes to human planning. This cannot take place without a model, without setting proposed solutions with the framework of a long-term plan for society’s transformation.
Albertini dedicated a large part of his theoretical enquiry on a discussion of normative models, particularly those for peace and community. His elaboration of them has contributed to defining the general features of the federalist plan.
The Theory of Peace.
On the basis of Kant’s theory that peace is the ultimate goal of the course of history, Albertini forges his own view of peace as a normative model. Peace, for Albertini, is a value that will give the world a rational order and history its meaning. Kant defines the concept of peace in entirely new terms, that have little in common with the interpretation of the term still being used today, where peace corresponds to an absence of hostilities, or a truce, a suspension of hostilities between two wars (i.e. negative peace). “The state of peace among men living in close proximity”, wrote Kant, “is not the natural state”, but rather something that “must… be established” through the creation of a legal system and guaranteed by a power superior to the states (positive peace).[52] By defining peace as a political organization that makes war impossible, Kant accurately identifies the discriminating factor that separates peace from war and places truce (the situation in which, though hostilities have ceased, the threat still remains that they may erupt again) on the side of war.
Nonetheless, the dogma in which the dominant political thought is still rooted, is that our nation constitutes the centre of the political universe. The state-centric paradigm considers politics from the standpoint of the national interest and its pursuit, not from the standpoint of the common good of mankind. In an anarchic world, dominated by conflict between a plurality of national interests, there is no space for a universal interest — only the hegemony of the strongest. Therefore, the state-centric culture belongs to the world of war, insofar as war is the means that states resort to to resolve conflicts that cannot be resolved by diplomacy. So long as the world is divided by deep conflicts between rival groups (nations and classes) the line along which the historical process develops will be guided by the relations of force between these groups — i.e. something that no one ever wanted. The course of history continues to be a natural process beyond the control of human will and reason. This means that the elimination of war has never been one of the aims of the political struggle.
On the one hand, observes Albertini, “the world of states… is based on war: it is the world of war”. On the other, “within each state politics is precisely the activity by which conflicts are peacefully resolved”. Moreover, “history present a constant tendency towards an extension of the size of states, i.e. the transformation of previous war zones into zones of internal peace”. Albertini interprets the deepest meaning of politics as “a gradual process of elimination of wars; and thus war is interpreted as the expression of the imperfection of politics, and peace as the expression of perfection of politics”.[53]
This line of reasoning could also be extended to the notion of state. If the ultimate goal of the state, according to Hobbes, is peace,[54] then the state will correspond to this idea only if it eliminates all relations of force from political life. And with a world Federation this becomes a possibility, as it represents the fulfilment of the notion of state.
On various occasions Albertini analyzed the consequences of a world Federation, pointing for instance at the relationship between world government and control of the historic process. “…with the idea of world government”, he writes, “we acquire the possibility of conceiving not only the idea of an uncontrolled historical process, but also that of a controlled historical process. In the latter case the historical process takes the form of a set of co-ordinated political decisions, within which the general will, which now takes shape also at the world level, will no longer be subordinate to necessity (taken as the international clash of national wills). Political will thus passes from the sphere of heteronomy to that of autonomy. And this entails at the same time the passage from history characterised by determinism to history guided by freedom.”[55] In other words, with a world government, world politics cease to be the outcome of an anarchic clash between states, and can become the object of free and democratic choices. It is no longer necessity that determines political ends, but reason.
The Community.
Albertini contends that federalism creates the conditions necessary for a society set free from poverty and violence, in which mankind can create communities everywhere based on solidarity. “The roots of our values and relationships”, he writes “lie in one respect in the state, which uses the monopoly of physical force to keep the peace, and in another respect (and this is the hidden face that Hobbes failed to emphasize) in human solidarity, which arises spontaneously without being imposed by any form of authority. Spontaneous social relations occur at the personal, neighbourhood and community level. This, the greatest fortune of human life, is nipped in the bud, in the absence of autonomy.”[56]
Albertini observes the contemporary world and notes that: “the primary cause of our society’s evils… is the defective distribution of power”.[57] Indeed, only one level of government, the national level, holds truly independent power, and all other powers are subordinate to it. The UN is subordinate to its member states, the European Union, despite the maturity of its unification process, is still subordinate to national governments, regional and local communities are similarly subordinate to national governments. The reason for this state of affairs lies in the division of the world into clashing sovereign states, a situation that feeds the demand for security, social cohesion and the centralization of power generated by antagonism among the states.
Clearly, the old institutions that are our legacy are insufficient for tackling the world’s great problems: peace, poverty, the environment, control over globalization and so on. These problems can only be resolved at the international level. On the other hand, the centralization that is typical of the national state is another serious drawback of democratic institutions, preventing them from dealing with issues that could be solved more effectively and democratically at regional and local level. The state is too small to face major issues, but equally too large to deal with smaller issues.
For politics to regain the power to determine the fate of the human community, the obstacle that needs to be overthrown is the absolute sovereignty of the state. Federalism is the political formula that enables the distribution of political power to be reorganized, granting autonomy to all levels of government, from the local community to the United Nations. Ultimately, it can be said that statehood will be fully realized when it acquires the tools to govern the world within the framework of a world Federation. Universal peace, and with it the expulsion of violence from human history, represents the prerequisite for a sea change in the human condition. With peace as the backdrop, individual liberty can thrive as never before in history, and political coexistence can arise out of solidarity at the grassroots level.
The community constitutes the cornerstone of the federalist concept of politics. It must be viewed as the fundamental building block of a society in which all men and women live in peace, because peace is guaranteed by a worldwide federal system, and raison d’état has accomplished its purpose as the driving force of history. On this subject, Albertini writes: “Framed exclusively by law, people’s behaviour would at last be dictated by the specifically human part of their nature, the autonomy of reason and the moral law. People would no longer consider each other as a means, but only as an end. It goes without saying that in groups where the other is an acquaintance or someone who belongs to one’s sphere of action, this relationship not only implies that others are never viewed as means to a personal end, as necessarily occurs in a regime of private ownership of the means of production, but it also implies that the good of others is felt as one’s own. In other words, it implies the community, which is in fact the group in which everyone is an end and no one is a means in the concrete practice of life, in existential terms. A sense of community would thus become a normal part of the human soul, and this might conceivably pave the way for a real alternative to the private ownership of the means of production and the transformation of cities into communities.”[58]
In his analysis, Albertini goes beyond identifying the centralization of the national state as the cause of the destruction of the kind of spontaneous solidarity that characterized day to day neighbourly relations in past eras. He factors in another element, the industrial mode of production. “Industrialism”, he writes “destroyed the brand of spontaneous solidarity that manifested itself at the neighbourhood level and rose to become a cultural conscience — everyman’s personal and social identity — with the parish, just as the city identified with its bishopric”.[59]
Albertini’s analysis of the prospects opened up by post-industrial society adds new elements to the notion of community. The problem today is how to “give the city back to the people — human beings everywhere — with planned control of development,… the scientific organization of the territory… and the elimination of suburbs (i.e. geographical discrimination) and their replacement with veritable urban districts… The city can no longer be viewed as a physical place but as a global function, as a collection of city services distributed and available throughout the territory. The feeling of belonging to a city should therefore be shared by all those who use a network of services including manufacturing, green areas, communications systems, cultural centres etc. Hence the city should be seen as a collection of urban districts in a framework that makes no distinction between city and country.”[60]
The analysis ends with Albertini pondering schools, which he regards as society’s self-education tool. Albertini recommends opening up the school to society: “An open school is not a school set apart from life… If itis to be the cultural hub of the neighbourhood and the city, then it must also be everyone’s library, sports centre, sight and sound museum, debating hall and venue for exploring issues relevant to the neighbourhood and the city — a veritable urban laboratory. It is only through such a school and such relations between city and school that the motivation will be found to bring about a revival of solidarity, activity and work offered up freely for humane aims.”[61]
Man supplies responses to the problems raised by reality. Therefore, as Marx put it, “Mankind always sets itself only such problems as it can solve”.[62]
Faced with the historical crisis of national states, federalism represents a political thought through which it is possible to understand and control contemporary history. Albertini was aware that knowledge is a powerful revolutionary force and considered federalist theory as the instrument of a political battle, whose aim he defined as “uniting Europe to unite the world”.[63]

[1] G.W.F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschchte, Leipzig, F. Meiner, 1917, vol. I, p. 76.
[2] A. Spinelli, Come ho tentato di diventare saggio, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, p. XII.
[3] Ibid. p. XIII.
[4] Ibid., p. 343.
[5] We know from his European Diary that in 1961 he planned a book, which never saw the light of day, entitled L’Utopia democratica (The Democratic Utopia). His aim was follows: “The new world development of our age, envisaged by the communists only, is that humanity now has a sole political destiny that is applicable to all, and that this can be nothing other than freedom for all — that is, democracy. I must think about this deeply and, should I decide to do so, leave federalist activism definitively (to one) aside and write this book. Perhaps this is the way to give federalism that political and social scope that, since the beginning, everyone has asked me for and until now I have been unable to adequately provide.” (A. Spinelli, Diario Europeo. 1948-1969, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1989, p. 411).
[6] Ibid., p. 301.
[7] B. Brecht, Leben des Galilei, Berlin, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1963, p. 125.
[8] K. Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, in Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, ed. by T. Bottomore and M. Rubel, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1970, p. 82.
[9] M. Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, p. 467.
[10] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, pp. 111-112.
[11] M. Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, Glincoe, IL, The Free Press, 1949, p. 52.
[12] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., p. 112.
[13] Plato, Phaedrus, in Dialogues of Plato, ed. by B. Jowett, Oxford, Clarendon, 1892, vol. I, p. 485.
[14] V.I. Lenin, What is to be done?, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1964, p. 25.
[15] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., pp. 109-110.
[16] B. Croce, Historical Materialism and the Economics of Karl Marx, Translation Publishers, 1981.
[17] M. Albertini, “Lettre ouverte à la JEF de Gênes”, 14 September 1971, in Le Fédéraliste, XIV, 1972, n. 1-2, pp. 72-73.
[18] L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution.
[19] Engels an Conrad Schmidt, 27 October 1890, K. Marx - F. Engels, Ausgewälte Schriften, Berlin, Dietz Verlag, 1974, p. 461.
[20] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., p. 110.
[21] M. Albertini, Il federalismo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1993, p. 145.
[22] Ibid., p. 144.
[23] Ibid., pp. 220-221.
[24] F. Meinecke, Die Idee der Staatsräson in der neuren Geschichte, München-Berlin, Oldenbourg, 1924, p. 23.
[25] Ibid., p. 24.
[26] M. Albertini, “War Culture and Peace Culture”, in The Federalist, XXVI, 1984, no. 1, pp. 19-20.
[27] Ibid., p. 29.
[28] M. Albertini, Il federalismo, cit., p. 92.
[29] Ibid., p. 91.
[30] Ibid., pp. 288-289.
[31] M. Albertini, Lo Stato nazionale, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1997. For comments on the question of nationhood in the evolution of Albertini’s thought, see L. Levi, “The theory of Nation”, in The Federalist, XL, 1998, n. 2.
[32] M. Albertini, Il federalismo, cit., p. 147.
[33] M. Albertini, Ibid., part IV.
[34] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., p. 237.
[35] M. Albertini, “The Power Aspect of European Planning”, in The Federalist, XLI, 1999, no. 2, p. 127.
[36] M. Albertini, “War Culture and Peace Culture”, in, The Federalist cit., p. 18.
[37] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., p. 135.
[38] I. Kant, “To Perpetual Peace”, in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, ed. by T. Humphrey, Indianapolis, Hackett, 1988, pp. 112-114.
[39] M. Albertini, Il federalismo, cit., p. 41.
[40] M. Albertini, “War Culture and Peace Culture”, in The Federalist, cit., p. 28.
[41] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., pp. 181-182.
[42] N. Machiavelli, The Prince and the Discourses, New York, Modern Library, 1950, p. 64.
[43] See the item “Politica” on the Grande dizionario enciclopedico, Turin, UTET, 1960, vol. X, pp. 203-208.
[44] M. Albertini, Proudhon, Florence, Vallecchi, 1974, pp. 105-106.
[45] Ibid., p. 106.
[46] I. Kant, “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Intent”, in Perpetual Peace, cit., pp. 34-35.
[47] M. Albertini, Proudhon, cit., p. 107.
[48] I. Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Berlin, Otto Hendel Verlag, 1899, p. 319.
[49] On this subject, M.R. Cohen observes: “Perhaps the most important obstacle to the development of the philosophies of history today is the prevailing fear of the a priori”. He adds that “this is amazing, if we reflect” that “the philosophy of history… surely is the focal point of all applications of philosophy to life” (The Meaning of Human History, La Salle, IL, Open Court, 1961, pp. 3-4).
[50] I. Kant, “On the Proverb: That May be True in Theory, But is of no Practical Use”, in Perpetual Peace, cit., p. 86.
[51] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., p. 144.
[52] I. Kant, To Perpetual Peace, cit., p. 111.
[53] M. Albertini, “War Culture and Peace Culture”, in The Federalist, cit., p. 26.
[54] T. Hobbes, Leviathan, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1904, p. 123.
[55] M. Albertini, “War Culture and Peace Culture”, in The Federalist, cit., p. 23.
[56] Movimento Federalista Europeo, Unione Europea subito, Atti del XII Congresso, Pavia, EDIF, 1984, p. 18.
[57] Ibid., p. 17.
[58] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., pp. 110-111.
[59] M. Albertini, “Discorso ai giovani federalisti”, in Il Federalista, XX, 1978, n. 2-3, p. 61.
[60] Ibid.
[61] Ibid.
[62] K. Marx, “Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”, in Karl Marx, cit., p. 68.
[63] M. Albertini, Nazionalismo e federalismo, cit., p. 177.



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