political revue


Year LIII, 2011, Single Issue, Page 30



Mario Albertini.
Politics between Science
and Philosophy
1. The New Era of Federalism.
As the figure of Mario Albertini recedes slowly into the sphere of history, the publication of his complete writings[1] provides future generations with an opportunity to benefit from the body of his thought, which was extraordinarily innovative both in the area of the historical social sciences — particularly political science — and in that of political and philosophy of history. But more than anything, Albertini provides an example, rare in history, of how it is possible to succeed in the difficult task of coupling an innovative theory with a successful political project.
Albertini’s work stands as a monument to federalism, understood as a new theory of the state and of international relations and as a political project to unify Europe and the world. The affirmation of federalism dates back more than 200 years, to when the Philadelphia Convention drafted the Constitution of the United States of America; this was also the era that saw the birth of the liberal-democratic movement, of which federalism has long been considered a variant. In the wake of the Second World War, there opened up a new phase in the history of federalism, in which Spinelli and Albertini played leading roles. At that time, federalism appeared not just as a new formula for organising the state, but also as a new form of international organisation, whose aim was to build peace, in Europe first of all, but also in other major world regions and in the world as a whole.
Now, several decades on, we have sufficient perspective to assess the extent of the cultural innovations which Albertini gave us, and the importance of the political results he achieved.
2. The Publication of the Complete Works.
The publication of Mario Albertini’s complete works coincides with an era of tumultuous change ushered in by the scientific revolution, which is transforming the forms of access to knowledge and the methods of processing and transmitting knowledge. The new technologies are supplanting books and printed media, taking away their dominant and previously unchallenged role as the repository and vehicle of knowledge. The current revolution is every bit as important as the two that preceded it: the invention of writing and the invention of printing. Thanks to the internet and online digital libraries, the channels for disseminating culture are increasing. The internet enables us to cut costs and access texts more easily, and allows thousands of texts to be condensed into a tiny space. In other words, a change is under way that is impacting on centuries-old cultural habits: we are witnessing a progressive abandonment of the printed page and of the reassuring and empowering feeling that is derived from picking up and leafing through a hefty and awe-inspiring tome.
When it came to deciding how best to transmit, to future generations, the works of Italy’s two leading federalists of the last century, two different media were chosen: the internet for Spinelli and the printed page for Albertini.
The publication of the complete writings of Albertini was made possible by a combination of two unique factors, which were missing in Spinelli’s case. First, there was the total dedication of the editor of the volumes, Nicoletta Mosconi, who, in the space of just four years, which sadly proved to be the last ones of her life, succeeded, thanks also to the constant support of Giovanni Vigo, in bringing out a total of nine volumes, each about a thousand pages long. Second, the project was affordable thanks to financial support provided by the Centro Studi sul Federalismo and the Fondazione Europea Luciano Bolis. As regards Spinelli’s works, on the other hand, it was decided, following discussions, that they could not be published in full on account of their sheer dimensions (around 40,000 pages); in the end, it was considered best to settle for online publication of his complete works and printed publication of several volumes of selected writings. The body of the works of the founder of the European Federalist Movement (MFE) will thus be entrusted to the internet. Both Spinelli and Albertini were aware of the innovative character of the cultural heritage they left us. Thanks to the work of their closest collaborators — it is worth recalling, in particular, Giovanni Vigo’s work, over thirty years, on the writings of Albertini — we now have well-ordered collections of the writings of both of them.
However, they had different ideas on how best to document their work for the benefit of future generations. Spinelli wrote an autobiography, never completed, and a lengthy diary. Nothing of this kind is found among the writings of Albertini, who, while appreciating the literary quality of Spinelli’s autobiography and the usefulness of the political opinions expressed in his diary, nevertheless felt that this preference for the memorialistic genre distracted Spinelli from the imperative to give priority at all times to political practice, and regarded it, ultimately, as a yielding to narcissism.
3. Albertini’s Contribution to Federalist Thought.
Mario Albertini provided the political and intellectual point of reference for the generation of federalists to which I belong, and he did so in a different way from Spinelli (founder of the MFE and the initiator of federalist behaviour in political life). Spinelli’s fundamental contribution was that of bringing federalism within the field of action. Through him, for the first time in history, federalism became a political priority, the objective of a political movement, independent of other political currents, that pursues European federation seen as an alternative to the organisation of the continent into nation-states, and as a step towards a world federation. The future European federation represents a far deeper political transformation than the changes of government or regime pursued by the other political currents (from liberalism to communism). In short, it is an alternative form of state or political community.
Despite sometimes feeling the need to explore federalist theory in greater depth, Spinelli always behaved as though it were already fully developed in the works of the classics. Albertini, on the other hand, made an important intellectual contribution to the definition and renewal of federalist theory. In this sense, he filled a gap in Spinelli’s federalism. His theoretical work was based on important premises: Spinelli’s thought and action. In other words, he picked up where Spinelli left off. What the two shared was a willingness to allow their whole lives to be conditioned by one single project — a specific characteristic of men of action engaged in political undertakings of historic significance. It is important to note that Albertini never regarded theoretical reflection as an end in itself, but rather as a means of improving the federalist movement’s capacity for action. Everything Albertini wrote sprang from the pressure of events and the political needs of his time.
4. The Intellectual and Politics.
Albertini was not only a political scientist and political philosopher. He felt impelled to leave the safe and comfortable terrain of pure theoretical speculation in order to travel the uncertain route of political action, accepting the risk inherent in direct engagement geared at governing the events of our time — engagement which demands concrete results and confirmations, here and now. He also became a man of action, in the fullest sense of the word, because his commitment to theoretical elaboration proved instrumental in achieving advances in the direction of what is, as remarked by Machiavelli in the Chapter VI of The Prince, the most difficult change that can be planned in the political sphere: the unification of several states.
Spinelli’s discovery and updating of federalism is the product of his exceptional talent that led him to become a historic figure and the founder of the federalist movement. However, he was, first and foremost, a man of action. There is a remark of Hegel that provides a particularly appro priate description of Spinelli’s personality: great men of history […] “have no consciousness of the Idea as such. They are practical and political men”.[2]
Albertini, on the other hand, convinced that a great political project demanded a new culture, a new political thinking, concentrated his efforts on widening the scope of federalist theory towards the global dimension. His approach to federalism was the fruit of rigorous studies and represented a tough intellectual achievement. The truth that permeated his words, spoken and written, reflected the seriousness of his commitment. He did not have a political vocation. He was a great intellectual, more a theorist than a politician. However, he was driven by an ethical imperative to pour all his energy into politics. In a letter, written in 1976, he explained how he saw his life choice: “engaging in politics in order to prepare for the day when men will no longer be obliged to engage in politics”. That day will come only when the world is ruled by reason, that is to say, when the world is governed by federal institutions, thereby putting an end to the social violence constituted by man’s exploitation of man, and the political violence stemming from the clash of power between states. “Therefore”, Albertini explained, “my federalism has moved away from Hamilton’s rigorous, but also limited, institutional perspective to Kant and Proudhon’s global one”. And he concluded with a confession, which shows us the intimate substance of his humanity: “Perhaps you will understand why I am forever saying that I want to quit, that I cannot wait to quit”.[3]
Whenever the federalist project is discussed, even in the limited sense of a European federation, it must not be forgotten that it remains an unfinished construction. What is more, its building is destined to last well beyond the lifetime of its framers, given that it cannot be achieved through acts of war, rapid and violent, which were the vehicle for the unification of states in the past. The European federation cannot be built this way. There is no state in Europe that can play the role that Piedmont and Prussia did in, respectively, the unification of Italy and of Germany. European unity must necessarily be brought about through the slow and difficult process of building consent among governments and citizens.
Albertini was the inspiration behind two fundamental advances towards the construction of the European federation: the direct election of the European Parliament, and the creation of the single currency and the European Central Bank. But these nevertheless remain just two milestones in a long journey.
A dispute with Norberto Bobbio in 1955[4] gave Albertini an opportunity to clarify his position on the role of the intellectual in politics. He naturally shared Bobbio’s view that, for the intellectual, involvement in politics does not imply abandonment of the criteria of scientific analysis. After all, the need to know reality is not, in itself, an element that separates the intellectual from the politician.
What Albertini could not accept was Bobbio’s choice to defend the various elements that could be deemed true and right within the different political positions, in short, his wish to be, at once, both on one side and on the other. There is no doubt that partial truths and positive values can be found on the different sides of the political spectrum. But if one chooses to play a political role, one cannot support all the opposing parties at the same time. According to the laws of politics, one should be seeking to influence the political scenario, pursuing the objective of maintaining or of changing the balance of power. Politics is governed by an absolute priority: the conservation and extension of power. This is, indeed, an iron law and a priority to which all other goals must be subordinate. Even the formation of ideas is conditioned by the need of political players (parties and states in conflict with each other) toincrease their respective power. Since ideas are instruments of the political struggle, they become vehicles of partial and often distorted truths.
For this reason, the vanguard, which questions the established powers with a view to creating new powers, is the only means through which the intellectual can escape the logic of the ongoing political balance. Through the vanguard, it is possible both to arrive at a better understanding of political reality and to transform the political structures within which normal political activity is conducted. Thus, the truth, through intellectuals, can be made to influence the political balance of power, provided the intellectuals comply with the rules of the political game. For example, they may exploit the critical function that they exercise in relation to the established powers and/or propose, like the federalists, to create new political balances and new forms of political organisation. This is the only way in which intellectuals can play an active political role. Any other way, and they end up becoming subordinate to first one and then another different political position.
Consideration of the question of dialogue between different political positions, which Bobbio defended unconditionally, brings us to the real crux of the problem. The defence of dialogue is all very well on a cultural level, but it is wrong in politics, where one needs to be either on one side or on the other. After all, we vote for one party; we do not give bits of our vote to all the parties. Practising the virtues of dialogue with someone like Hitler would be like speaking to deaf ears and would, ultimately, serve only to encourage our interlocutor’s aggression and imperialistic aspirations.
There is one wonderful page in Albertini’s writings where he illustrates the merciless harshness of politics, which is an unpleasant and inescapable necessity: “It is one thing to say: there is right and wrong, and quite another to declare ‘this is wrong’ and strike […]. But in politics this is precisely what is required — by the force of law in the normal political context and with the rigor of the ethics of responsibility in the context of the vanguard, otherwise the vanguard is just a game. This is the harshness of politics. And without accepting this harshness, one cannot accept politics; if one never finds oneself making hard and bitter choices, then one is not operating in the ambit of politics. Because politics is no place for compassion. This was the lesson taught me by antifascism. I learned that we had to strike, that it was wrong not to strike, and that it was hypocritical not to admit this to ourselves; I learned that politics does not coincide with Christian or Kantian ethics, but with the morality of responsibility (which I subsequently encountered in Weber), according to which, provided the end is good (not personal), the Machiavellian maxim of the end justifying the means holds true. Since I did not want, and do not want, to be in any part responsible for fascism (in the broadest, ever-present sense), I accepted this maxim”.[5]
Albertini’s relations with the academic world were contentious. Even though he himself belonged to this world, he considered himself alien to it, because academics — like the idealist philosophers criticised by Marx — mostly confine themselves to contemplating reality, leaving the responsibility for changing it to the politicians. For this reason, they end up being subordinate to the dominant powers.
The stance Albertini chose was that of the intellectual who adopts an active attitude towards politics, who wants to know reality in order to change it. His political commitment followed on from the philosophy of praxis developed by the young Marx, whose eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach says: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it”.[6] The truth of thought lies in its capacity to change the world. The decisive proof of the validity of a theory is provided by its conversion into practice, its successful transformation of reality.
The following observations aim to bring out the profound coherence between Albertini’s thought and his action, between his theory and his practice. They are divided into three parts: the scientist, the philosopher and the man of action. A more extensive treatment of the first two of these parts can be found in my essay entitled “Federalism from Community to the World”,[7] published a decade ago in this journal. Here, the relative concepts are merely outlined.
5. The Scientist.
Bacon, the founder of modern empirical science, believed that knowledge was power. In line with this idea, Albertini saw science as the power to use technology to control reality. The sciences do, indeed, have eminently practical purposes. Just as the objective of medicine is health, so that of political science is good government. Ultimately, it is society that decides the significance and value of the criteria of knowledge and action.
The boundaries within which science operates are those of sentient experience. Through the scientific method, it is possible to offer everyone empirically verified knowledge, based on the observation of facts. The social sciences give us access to precise and controlled knowledge of individual sectors of reality (politics, law, economics, psychology, etc.), which are specific systems governed by their own laws. Even though they cannot be clearly separated from the functioning of the global system, these areas of social reality can be studied independently.
Albertini was perfectly aware that politicians are almost always forced to make decisions before acquiring an adequate knowledge of the situation on which they intend to intervene. However, the political action that is necessary to carry out the federalist project, being designed to bring about profound institutional change, demands, compared with all other political actions, a much broader and more accurate knowledge of reality. In accordance with this premise, Albertini applied, uncompromisingly, the scientific method, calmly probing reality and accepting without hesitation those disappointing instances in which the events fail to corroborate the scientific hypotheses formulated.
Albertini knew, of course, that there are aspects of reality that are not accessible to scientific knowledge: the sphere of values. Indeed, the choice of method underlying the sciences rests on acknowledgement of the logical heterogeneity between facts and value judgements. Consequently, it is necessary to distinguish between the observation of facts (the scientific level) and the affirmation of values (which belongs to the spheres of politics, morality, religion and philosophy).
Since the social scientist, unlike the natural scientist, cannot conduct laboratory experiments, there are areas of social reality that are not susceptible to experiments, because they are unprecedented in history. A perfect example of this is provided by Spinelli’s key innovation, namely his project for unifying a group of states through democratic action, as opposed to the traditional means of war. Spinelli’s definition of federalist strategy was his great political masterpiece. In cases like this, the testing of new schemes of action is possible only through active involvement in political life.
Albertini took, as the starting point for his political reflection, the social sciences, which study mighty, impersonal forces, i.e., the structure of the means of production and of political power, and represent the objective conditions within which social actors operate.
Mankind can use his freedom to influence the course of history, but only if this is possible within the constraints of reality. In other words, if we are to succeed in shaping the future, we must conceive of, and want, what is possible within the confines of reality. Albertini’s ambitious plan was to elaborate a theoretical model of political analysis that that might contribute to a better understanding of our times and serve as a basis for designing the profound political change pursued by federalist action. He set out to develop a very broad and abstract theory, aimed at identifying the driving forces of history, so as to be able to define the objective conditions in which the action for the creation of a European federation could unfold. The lens through which Albertini studied the objective course of history was that of politics, because only by using the instruments of politics is it possible to realise a great political project such as the federalist one.
Albertini’s model is a reformulation and synthesis of three major theories developed by different schools of thought: historical materialism, the raison d’état theory and the theory of ideology.[8]
Albertini uses historical materialism, first of all, because this scientific theory makes it possible to identify the profound dynamics that determine the course of history and affect the whole of society, the economy and politics. This conceptual framework makes it possible to demonstrate that the evolution of the mode of production is the social factor gradually weakening the nation-states and paving the way for the formation of new, federal-type powers at international level. According to this interpretation of history, the second phase of the industrial mode of production (characterised by the assembly line and the development of the aeronautical industry) determines the loss of the decision-making power of the nation-states and places the formation of federations in Europe, and in other major regions of the world, on the historical agenda. On the other hand, the scientific mode of production (characterised by automation and information technology) erodes the sovereignty of the larger, regional states and brings out the need for a world government. In the light of this interpretation of history, the overcoming of the division of Europe, and of the world, into sovereign states is seen to be an unavoidable necessity, imposed by economic, social and technological evolution. Whenever history changes course, the safe old points of reference are lost and the existing order declines; this opens up opportunities for revolutionary intervention that are not present in normal circumstances. But institutional change becomes possible only if there emerge political groups that choose to pursue it.
Second, the raison d’état theory, which analyses politics in terms of the evolution of the balance of world power, shows that the present power structure is not capable of governing either European integration or globalisation; it shows that mere international cooperation is no longer enough, and that federal-type reforms are now necessary both in Europe (where, as shown by the European elections and single currency, part of the federalist design has already been implemented), and globally (at world level, the International Criminal Court represents a first step towards affirmation of cosmopolitan law).
Third, the theory of ideology shows that political ideas are instruments of the power struggle and often mask reality, or give a distorted representation of it. Federalism aims to demolish the ideology of the nation, which portrays mankind as composed of natural entities divided by national hatred; it aims to show that the nation is an illusory concept, serving to strengthen the cohesion of the national group, whose existence is constantly threatened by the military and political pressure on its borders exerted by other nations; finally, it aims to break the bond of loyalty that is formed between citizens and their nation simply by virtue of being born in a certain place, and to restore legitimacy to the ties of belonging that bind individuals to communities both smaller and larger than the nation.
Even though Albertini failed to develop this model systematically in a work of synthesis, it is nevertheless applied in all his works. The quality of Albertini’s political analyses, which never allow the threads of the present to become detached from those of history, provide evidence of the validity and originality of his choice of method. Hegel, in reference to Machiavelli, wrote that those who have dealt with the practical problem of building a new state have striven to understand, more deeply, the laws of politics.[9] This is true both of Spinelli and of Albertini.
Albertini’s theoretical work is important because he showed that a change as profound as the one promoted by the federalist blueprint demands a scientific analysis of social reality and that the federalist point of view is the best perspective for understanding the contemporary world.
6. The Philosopher.
The empirical approach peculiar to political science does not allow a complete analysis of politics. Indeed, the key concepts found in the political lexicon (state, power, legitimacy, freedom, equality, peace, etc.) represent, at once, both facts and values. More precisely, they designate a de facto situation, which appears limited, provisional and incomplete, but refer to a situation in which the value they encompass is fully realised. This twofold aspect of the categories of politics expresses a contradiction that characterises the human condition, namely the tension between “is” and “should be”, i.e. the tendency to go beyond the concrete achievements already attained in order to move towards targets that bring us ever closer to the fulfillment of the value ideas contained in those categories.
Albertini thought that the scientific method offered an important, but not the only, yardstick for measuring the validity of thought. As Max Weber had remarked, science cannot provide any answers to the crucial questions posed by Tolstoy: “what shall we do and how shall we live?”[10] Certainly, the criteria that guide the behaviour of individuals cannot be submitted to any form of empirical verification and, therefore, cannot be the object of scientific knowledge, because they belong to the sphere of values.
However, if we accept Max Weber’s world of values concept, as many contemporary scholars do, we end up confining value choices within the sphere of subjectivity, of individual arbitrariness and, ultimately, of the irrational. Against the relativism of values, which, in contemporary culture has pervaded common sense, Albertini urges a return to Kant’s philosophical teaching, which suggests submitting the world of values to the examination of reason, i.e. to a control criterion different from the empirical verification that is the basis of scientific research: namely, that of logical consistency. In fact, even though moral principles cannot be drawn from experience, this does not mean that they change with changing times and circumstances.
Men are subjected to the historical process as a natural process in which social forces collide within states, and states clash in the international arena. The direction of the course of history is the result of the parallelogram of forces. But this state of affairs is not destined to last forever. History is also the terrain of attempts to bring the historical process under the control of human will. Put another way, history is the terrain on which moral values arise and gradually assert themselves.
According to Kant, man has a dual nature: he is both instinct and reason. As a natural being, man acts according to the stimulus of his own needs and in so doing comes into conflict with other individuals. From this perspective, human behaviour can be explained in a deterministic way. As a rational being, man assigns history a purpose: the building of a society in which all conflicts are peacefully settled by law and violence is abolished from all social relations, including international relations. The only institution through which this purpose can be pursued is the world federation.
In history, therefore, necessity and freedom coexist. The natural history of mankind (dominated by social and political violence) is paving the way for a situation in which men will be driven by their experience of the destructiveness of conflict (war primarily) to build peace, which is the condition for attaining the freedom and equality of all men. Kant points out that no constitution can be perfect until the human race is governed by a world constitution.[11] Indeed, until that goal is reached, the individual governments will be forced by the raison d’état to exercise power relationsover one another and this will lead them to give priority to security at the expense of freedom.
Politics in the highest sense of the word is the activity that aims to improve the human condition. It is, in other words, the vehicle of the process of civilisation, which works essentially to pacify increasingly large human groups through the affirmation of constitutional mechanisms that regulate conflicts through law, and eliminate the use of violence from social relations. Man becomes more civilised to the extent that, with the help of the automatic mechanisms of the political institutions, he is able to govern his instincts, and allow his second, rational nature to prevail.
Values are points of reference that highlight history in the making, while the philosophy of history is the field of knowledge in which the march of mankind in history assumes a meaning. This means that reason is a faculty that orders and guides history, which has a course and a purpose. Reason, Kant argued, requires men to act in order “to affect posterity that it will become continually better” .[12] In other words, there exists a form of uninterrupted communication and dialogue between the generations, past, present and future, whose aim is to advance towards that which is better. Kant enhanced this principle, giving it the status of a true postulate of practical reason. Nevertheless, the idea that history proceeds along a progressive line does not render it immune to the possibility of regression. The progress is not linear, but dialectical.
The creation of a world government is the decisive event that will mark the transition to a situation in which the historical process may be brought under the control of human will. This institution will make it possible for mankind to express his political will at world level and thus to govern the world. History will cease to be a natural, deterministic process and will instead be driven by freedom.
Thus, for Kant, the world federation is the point of arrival of world history. The fact that a great thinker like Kant, perhaps the greatest modern philosopher, developed a federalist interpretation ofhistory is, for today’s federalists, an extraordinarily important source of legitimation for their political commitment. This was a point often made by Albertini, who recognised, long before authors such as Höffe, Habermas and Held,[13] the topicality of Kant’s great design.[14]
Albertini was not a Platonic philosopher. It is not up to philosophers to decide what is the best form of government, but rather the citizens, through their political behaviour. Federalism is not the model of a perfect society, which, once discovered, imposes itself by virtue of the sheer power of its ideas. Marx said that communism is not an abstract theory, but consciousness of the historical process: it is “not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself”, but rather “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things”.[15] Today, 150 years on, we can say the same of federalism, as Albertini understood it. Federalism is characterised by a constant endeavour to find, in the historical process and in its contradictions, the elements that will allow it to affirm its project.
What this implies is that federalism is an unaccomplished project. It is not a ready-made theory that can be applied to the ever new circumstances produced by history and politics. History is the terrain of the constant creation of the new, which no theory can foresee in advance, except in very general terms. The historical features of federalism will take shape as a reaction to the constantly changing circumstances that history will bring. A movement incapable of recognising these circumstances will end up being overwhelmed and marginalised.
Albertini was hostile towards any form of crystallisation of federalist thought. Accordingly, just as Marx claimed not to be Marxist, Albertini would not be defined “Albertinian”. The current task of federalists is to proceed along the path traced by Spinelli and Albertini, seeking to iden tify, in each phase of history, opportunities for advancing towards the final objective.
The implementation of federalism is, as a whole, a long-term process in which power tends to be transferred, upwards and downwards, from the sovereign states and redistributed among a number of different levels of government, from the local community to the United Nations. The overwhelming power of the states over the other levels of government is, currently, the obstacle that is preventing mankind from taking control of his own destiny. This is why the future European federation, which will be the first example of federal unification of historically established nations, remains the crucial event of our times and the driving force for the affirmation of federalism at other levels of government and in the rest of the world.
7. The Man of Action.
Albertini’s life, was an unrivalled example of the dialectical unity of thought and action. The proposals he advanced always stemmed from theories developed and knowledge accumulated. For him, understanding society was not an end in itself, but was always directed towards political action. Like Lenin, he favoured “concrete analysis of the concrete situation”, this analysis being the crucial moment at which the theory may provide evidence of its capacity to transform reality. This analysis is, in other words, the terrain of the conversion of theory into practice.
The superiority of Albertini’s theoretical analyses lies in his constant quest to show that history should, essentially, be moving in the direction of the supranational dimension. It is only by adopting this analytical standpoint that the political forces can relate to the contemporary world.
The decline of the political parties depends on their choice to adopt the nation-states as their field of action, which prevents them from gaining an adequate knowledge of the processes of regional integration and globalisation, and from governing these processes effectively.
Spinelli saw a European constituent assembly as the objective of the federalist strategy. He conceptualised the constituent assembly as the vehicle of the qualitative leap represented by the transfer of sovereignty from the states to Europe and the federal constitution as the means that would make it possible to unify some aspects of politics, law and the economy, without erasing the nation-states, in order to achieve the European federation. The 1953 ad hoc assembly which was entrusted with the task of drawing up the statute of the European political community and should also have dealt with the need to govern the proposed European army, not only provided confirmation of this hypothesis, but was also the result of a political initiative by Spinelli.
Until the abandonment, at the start of the 1960s, of the action of the Congress of the European People, which had campaigned for the creation of a supranational political force capable of imposing, on the governments, the convening of a European constituent assembly, the European federation was seen as the result of direct action led by the federalist movement. Up until that time, the contribution of Albertini was subordinate to the action planned by Spinelli.
Albertini emerged as a political leader of the federalist movement during the construction of the Common Market and during the period of its success following the collapse of the European Defence Community and the failure of the attempt to create a European Political Community. The federalists had predicted that the Common Market would be a failure. In 1957, Spinelli had written an article entitled The Common Market Insult,[16] in which, on the basis of Lionel Robbins’ theory[17] on the relations between state and market, he argued that economic integration would not automatically lead to political unity, given that the market itself would be unable to function without the legal and political order that only a state can confer. Instead, contrary to these predictions, the Common Market was a great success.
As early as 1960, Albertini developed some concepts to explain why this was the case: the de facto decline of the national sovereignties in Europe, together with the hegemony of the United States, resulted in a convergence of the raisons d’état of the member states of the European Community, which allowed the European market to function, albeit in a precarious and provisional manner, even in the absence of a state.[18] These concepts are forerunners of a new academic discipline and a new field of study — international political economy — that was to develop from the 1970s onwards, on the basis of contributions by Charles Kindleberger and Robert Gilpin.[19]
Spinelli, too, took note of the success of the Common Market, and became convinced that the European federation would come into being as an evolution of the EEC institutions. Looking for immediate alternatives to contestation of the Common Market, he pursued political alliances with the U.S. government during the Kennedy administration and with the first centre-left government in Italy, taking on the role of adviser to the socialist leader and Foreign Minister Pietro Nenni. But he did not obtain appreciable results in terms of the advancement of European unification.
Instead, the lesson that Albertini drew from the new political cycle ushered in by the Common Market was that it was necessary to prepare the federalist movement for a long-term commitment. He realised that, following the missed opportunity of the EDC, it would be a very long time indeed before the federalist alternative to nation-state sovereignty might come to the fore once again. At the start of the 1960s, the paths of Spinelli and Albertini diverged, with Albertini pouring all his energies into the development of the federalist movement and the construction of a structure that was, in the cultural, political, organisational, and financial sense, independent. At the same time, he promoted a popular action (a voluntary census of the European federal people) that, albeit in new ways, continued along the lines of the Congress of the European People, its aim being to show that the citizens were in favour of a European Federation. The gathering of support for this objective was seen as a substitute for European elections (which, at the time, had not been introduced).
The end of the Common Market’s transitional period opened new perspectives for intervention by the federalists. Spinelli looked to the European institutions to provide the point of support that would allow him to continue his actions. More specifically, he hypothesised that the European Economic Community was the institutional framework within which a European government would take shape. Consequently, in 1970 he succeeded in getting the Italian government to appoint him member of the European Commission, an institution which he saw as the embryo of a European government. His intuition was right, but as history was to show, this was not the first step that needed to be taken in order to advance towards the construction of European political unity.
Albertini realised that the first step had to be the direct election of the European Parliament. This objective could be pursued by exploiting a contradiction, i.e. the fact that Europe had a parliament that, unlike the national parliaments, was not elected by the European citizens. To get round French opposition to European elections, the European Federalist Movement started a campaign for the unilateral direct electionof theItaliandelegates to theEuropean Parliament. The international monetary crisis, which, in 1971, prompted the US government to suspendthe convertibility of the dollar into gold, and the resulting exchange rate fluctuations, which threw the European market into crisis, provided the opportunity, finally, to decide (1975) to elect the European Parliament by universal suffrage (1979). Giscard d’Estaing had removed the French veto on European elections and the issue of democratising and strengthening the European Community became part of the European political agenda. Spinelli became a member of the European Parliament. Here, he spearheaded a new effort to move closer to a European federation, an effort which culminated in the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, approved by the Parliament in 1984. This ambitious project was examined by an intergovernmental conference, which put it aside due to opposition from the British government. Nevertheless, in the years since then, a considerable part of that project has become reality.
While the campaign for direct elections to the European Parliament was still going on, Albertini, in 1975, proposed opening up a new front that would create the conditions necessary for a substantial transfer of power from the states to Europe: that of the single currency. Several factors combined to bring the issue of monetary unification to the centre of European political debate: the weakening of American hegemony over Europe, fluctuating exchange rates, and the gradual disintegration of the European market. The Maastricht Treaty (1992) marked the start of the long process that led to the birth of the euro in 1999, and its entry into circulation in 2002.
Although he was a supporter of the objective of the European currency, especially when it entered the political agenda, Spinelli was actually more sensitive to another objective: the issuing of European loans to promote the investments necessary to support European economic growth. Still today, after the introduction of the single currency, this objective (supported, although never carried through, by Jacques Delors during his presidency of the European Commission) remains a crucial item on Europe’s political agenda. Indeed, it now represents the next step in the process of building European unity.
Both Spinelli and Albertini supported the strategy of trying to move closer to the objective of the European federation through gradual advances and partial achievements. Albertini, however, gave it a name — “constitutional gradualism”[20] — and, as we have seen, identified the direct election of the European parliament and the single currency as the intermediate objectives on the path leading to a European federation, objectives that were successfully achieved by the federalist movement.
Underlying this new approach was the success of the Common Market, which had shown that the states were capable of driving the process of European integration. What is more, they did so for an entire political cycle without any transfer of power to the European Community. Of course, as European integration advanced, the fortunes of the EC member states became more and more deeply intertwined and the states themselves increasingly dependent on European society and the European economy. The erosion of national sovereignty, brought about by European integration, confirmed the federalist idea that integration could not be governed by the states separately from one another, and therefore that the European federation solution would, sooner or later, inevitably return to the fore. More specifically, it was clear to federalists that eco nomic integration would not automatically lead to political unity, and that the process of economic integration would not be completed without a federal government.
The aim of federalist strategy in the era of the European Communities and economic integration was to exploit the contradictions encountered in the course of the integration process, in order to bring about a federal transformation of the European Communities. The strategic approach of constitutional gradualism was to seek to introduce federal-type institutions into the fabric of the European Communities. The direct election of the European Parliament and the single currency represent partial achievements of the federalist project and milestones on the way to European federation, but they have not been enough to reverse the condition of subordination of the European Communities (and, now, of the European Union) vis-à-vis the member states.
What the start of the European integration process taught the federalists was that the time had come to stop pursuing the European constituent assembly as the objective of a direct popular mobilisation led by the federalist movement. The latter, in the new political cycle, decided to play the role of vanguard of a vast coalition of pro-European forces, social and political, to be formed at some crisis point in the process of European integration, in order to promote the transfer of power to European level.
Thus, the idea, envisaged by Spinelli prior to the formation of the European Communities, of entrusting a specifically convened assembly with the task of drafting the European Constitution was abandoned. Instead, the role of constituent body was played by the enlarged ECSCassembly, which drew up the draft EPC treaty (1953), and the Parliament of the EEC, which approved the Draft Treaty on European Union (1984). More recently, the constituent role has been played by conventions — made up of representatives of the European Parliament, the national parliaments, the European Commission and the national governments — which adopt a constituent co-decision procedure involving the participation of the legislative and executive bodies of the member states and European Union. This procedure was used to draw up the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the draft European Constitution, which, after being amended, was named the Lisbon Treaty. Herein lies one of the most significant innovations of the new European institutional architecture: the convention method has been institutionalised as the regular procedure for revising the Treaties. This is certainly a step forwards in terms of bringing about a federal transformation of the EU, because it breaks the monopoly on treaty revision previously held by the IGCs (even though these nevertheless retain the power of final decision with unanimous vote).
8. A Look to the Future.
Globalisation has caused the world to undergo a great metamorphosis, which has shaken the established models far more than the process of European unification has done. The theoretical aim of federalism is to demolish the state-centric model, which reflects an archaic culture, superseded by the integration processes now under way in large regions of the world, by the globalisation process, and by the movement towards self-government, regional and local.
Scholars of international federalism, always aware that what they are exploring is a kind of no man’s land lying between domestic and inter national politics, have learned to live with different approaches to the study of politics. For them, the loss of boundaries between the sphere of domestic politics and that of international politics, caused by globalisation, the erosion of state sovereignty, and the tendency towards constitu tionalisation of international relations, merely confirms the fact that the organisation of political power in the world is evolving towards a federal-type formula, albeit in the long time frame of history, and in non-traditional forms. Put more precisely, the gap between the first form of federalism, conceived with the purpose of organising a new form of state, and the new form of federalism, the international one, whose aim is to organise along federal lines the major regions of the world and, ultimately, the whole world (federal reform of the UN), is closing. What we are seeing is a reorganisation of power that is eroding the state sovereignties, but not to the point of suppressing them, and forming new levels of government, independent and coordinated, above and below the level of the national governments.
The world is changing so fast that the reality which we intend to transform along federalist lines is no longer the reality that Albertini knew. Some of the key words and terms used to describe the characteristics of today’s new world and to try and make sense of the new reality that is taking shape before us did not even exist in the last century (or at least in most of it). For example, Albertini’s works do not contain the word “globalisation”, which refers to a process absolutely central to the evolution of contemporary history and a topic about which thousands of books have been written. I am not saying that he failed to see the significance of the problem in general terms, only that he uses a similar, albeit broader term — “interdependence” —, which may be applied equally to European and world integration.
In truth, European integration and globalisation are processes that belong to two different historical periods and two different stages in the evolution of the mode of production: respectively, the second phase of the industrial mode of production and the scientific mode of production. Just as the nation-states of Europe in the wake of WWII were condemned to decline and reduced to the status of satellites of the United States and of Russia, so today the two former superpowers are themselves declining under the pressure of globalisation, which is eroding their sovereignty. It is important, in particular, to note certain non-state actors that have emerged as globalplayers, whose actions are outside the control of the states. Banks, stock exchanges, rating agencies, and multinational corporations are taking away the states’ control of the global market. Religious organisations, research centres, foundations and universities are developing and disseminating cultural models at world level. Global television networks (CNN, Al Jazeera, etc.) are forming global public opinion. Civil society movements are promoting the first forms of worldwide mobilisation of citizens. Criminal and terrorist organisations are threatening the monopoly on violence until now held by the states. In short, globalisation is creating an ever deeper divide between the states, which have remained national, and the market and civil society, which have become global.                                            As a result, the states are proving completely incapable of governing globalisation, because they have lost the power to decide issues crucial to the future of mankind. The new political element, which is now emer ging more and more strongly, but was still not clearly discernible in the last century, is the erosion of the sovereignty of states of continental dimensions, which, in turn, is posing the problem of world government, i.e. of the need to strengthen and democratise the UN and other international organisations.
The theoretical work of Albertini provides a perspective that makes it possible to interpret the problems of the twenty-first century in line with the federalist viewpoint, and shows the direction in which to proceed. So deep was his inclination to identify with the problems of his time, and so exemplary his interpretation of them, that his strategic indications remain relevant even in today’s changed circumstances.
Above all, the constitutional gradualism method, through which he identified the intermediate objectives on the way towards European federation (the direct election of the European parliament and the single currency), and the strategy of making real advances towards that goal, remain lasting and valid indications. And not only in the ambit of European federalism, but also in that of world federalism.
Perhaps, at the end of the last century, it was impossible to see (even though it is obvious to us now) that a federal budget based on own resources would become, following the creation of the single currency, the crucial new step needed in order to move towards a European economic government. The power to impose taxes is a crucial aspect of state sovereignty, which, if politics is to regain its power to govern the markets, the states must, in part, relinquish to the EU. The federalists are therefore committed to the pursuit of a new transfer of power from states to the EU, in the framework of constitutional gradualism.
This approach and strategic indication have also proved to be crucial with regard to the first steps towards the world federation. As far as this objective is concerned, it is advisable to study the process of globalisation together with federalism, understood as the theory that makes it possible to govern globalisation. More precisely, the world federation is seen as the form of power organisation through which it becomes possible to eliminate war as a means of solving international conflicts, to overcome the raison d’état as the driving force in international politics, to constitutionalise international relations, and to govern these through international democracy. All this is what is required in order to heal the divide between the sphere of politics governed by law and the sphere of politics governed by violence.
For those with eyes to see it, a process moving in the direction of these goals is already under way. Albertini saw quite clearly that European unification could be both the model for and the driving force of the unification of other major regions of the world (Latin America, South East Asia, Africa, etc.) and of the world as a whole (through a strengthening and democratisation of the UN). What distinguishes European unification from federal unifications of the past is the fact that the division of the world into sovereign states, accepted as inevitable, led to a centralist degeneration of those states. European unification, precisely because it is developing in the context of the globalisation process, is emerging as a new stage of the historical process and as the start of the unification of the world. For this reason, it will produce a new form of federalism.
Moreover, the United Nations system has developed a network of institutions that anticipate, even if they do not establish, a world government; in rather the same way, the European Community, as an institution, must be understood as a forerunner of the future European federation. In 1998, barely a year after Albertini’s death, the International Criminal Court was created in order to punish crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. This institution was born as a reaction to the horrors and atrocities of the civil wars in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and the Caucasus, which were the bitter fruits of the processes of political disintegration that marked the end of the Cold War. The Court’s objective was to see international law applied to individuals and no longer only to states. It undoubtedly reproduces, at global level, one of the key aspects of statehood and, for this reason, may be seen as a first step towards the future world federation.
There is now beginning to appear, on the horizon, another great advance in the direction of this objective. The global financial and economic crisis is making it compulsory to address the problem of governing the world economy and, in particular, the need to reform the international monetary system with a view to creating a global reserve currency. The colossal size of US public debt, which raises the spectre, for America, of national insolvency, suggests that the dollar should be replaced as the international reserve currency by a basket of the world’s leading currencies. It is interesting, in this regard, to note the parallels that can be drawn with European monetary unification as a temporary response to the problem of the government of the European economy, a problem that the European federalists have been targeting for a quarter of a century. The lesson that can be learned from the history of European unification is that a monetary union cannot hold out in the absence of a fiscal union, a European government of the economy, and, ultimately, a federal union.
In conclusion, the federalist model makes it possible to see the reality of today’s world in a new perspective, because it allows simple and direct explanations of the changes that have taken place, and also gives them a name. Through the federalist revolution, exclusive loyalty to one’s nation, a sentiment already dead in the heart of contemporary men, particularly today’s young Europeans for whom the nation has lost all meaning, will be replaced by the awareness, clearly apparent in the process of globalisation, of belonging to mankind but also, at the same time, to a local community, a county, a region, a nation and a major region of the world.

[1] M. Albertini, Tutti gli scritti, edited by N. Mosconi, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2006-2010 (nine volumes).
[2] G.W.F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, Leipzig, F. Meiner, 1917, vol. I, p. 76.
[3] M. Albertini, “A Giuseppe Usai”, 19 March 1976, in Tutti gli scritti, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009, vol. VII, pp. 193-194.
[4] M. Albertini, “Politica e cultura nei saggi di Norberto Bobbio” (1955), in Tutti gli Scritti, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2006, vol. I, pp. 813-820.
[5] M. Albertini, “A Giuseppe Usai”, op. cit., p. 193.
[6] K. Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, in The Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Marx-Engels Internet Archives.
[7] The Federalist, XLIV, n. 3 (2002).
[8] See the above cited essay “Federalism from Community to the World”.
[9] G.W.F. Hegel, Political Writings, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, chap. 8.
[10] M. Weber, Science as a Vocation,, p. 11.
[11] I. Kant, Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Intent, in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, ed. by T. Humphrey, Indianapolis, Hackett, 1988, p. 34.
[12] I. Kant, On the Proverb: That May be True in Theory, But is of no Practical Use, in Perpetual Peace, op. cit., p. 86.
[13] J. Habermas,  The Inclusion of the Other, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1998; D. Held, Democracy and the Global Order, London, Polity Press, 1995; O. Höffe, Demokratie im Zeitalter der Globalisierung, München, Beck, 1999.
[14] M. Albertini, “War Culture and Peace Culture”, The Federalist, XXVI, n. 1, 1984, p. 18. See also “Towarda World Government”, ibid., pp. 3-8.
[15] K. Marx, The German Ideology, Marx & Engels Internet Archive;
[16] A. Spinelli, “La beffa del Mercato comune”, in L’Europa non cade dal cielo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1960, pp. 282-287.
[17] L. Robbins, Economic Planning and International Order, London, Macmillan, 1937.
[18] M. Albertini, La “force de dissuasion” francese (1960), in Tutte le opere, op. cit., vol. III, pp. 575-582.
[19] C. Kindleberger, The World in Depression, 1929-39, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1973; R. Gilpin, The Political Economy of International Relations, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1987.
[20] M. Albertini, Elezione europea, governo europeo e Stato europeo (1976), in Tutte le opere, op. cit., vol. VII, pp. 159-171.



il federalista logo trasparente

The Federalist / Le Fédéraliste / Il Federalista
Via Villa Glori, 8
I-27100 Pavia