political revue


Year XXIX, 1987, Number 3, Page 235



The explosion of the first atom bomb changed the nature of war for ever and raised an anguishing question mark over mankind’s future. Among the few people who immediately realized that mankind’s condition had changed and that the criteria by which the world was usually judged were totally inadequate, was Luigi Einaudi. An economist of international standing, a careful commentator of the greatest political events of his times, Budget Minister and finally President of the Italian Republic, Einaudi published two articles in Il Corriere della Sera on March 29 and April 4, 1948 significantly called “Who wants peace?” and “Who wants the atom bomb?” to force pacifists to rid themselves of their ideological glitter and reflect on the conditions that might lead to lasting peace.
At that time little attention was paid to Einaudi’s articles. The conviction that peace and war depended on the nature of the political regime or on the capitalist organization of the Western economy was too deeply rooted to leave room for rational examination of the problem. But somebody had to take on the responsibility for defending the principles of reason. And Luigi Einaudi was well qualified to do so.
As early as 1897 he had perceived the unitary nature of the European historical process and, in an article published in La Stampa on August 20 that year, he remarked that the collaboration created between the states of the old Continent could be considered the dawn of European unity. He believed that the simple will to co-operate among sovereign states and the declared intention of preventing new wars were sufficient to guarantee lasting peace. In that short text the young Einaudi’s judgement of the results of the collaboration between European powers was in blatant contradiction with historical experience. After all, the article faced up to the problem of peace in the right arena, the European one.
Over the years Einaudi’s thinking became sharper and clearer. In 1918, when the havoc of the First World War had shown that understanding between the sovereign powers was not sufficient to avoid armed conflict, he did not hesitate to criticize Wilson’s planned League of Nations sharply, claiming that such an institution was not an instrument of peace and was nothing more than thefaçade behind which the hawks favouring war could act undisturbed. In two articles published in Il Corriere della Sera on January 5 and December 28, 1918, Einaudi had no difficulty in showing that all the coalitions of states created in the course of the centuries had been dissolved as soon as some conflict emerged, and that their presence had not even managed to avoid a war.
This was the way things were with the First World War. Its roots lay in the division of Europe which had not managed to create a political order consistent with the degree of unity achieved in the wake of the progress fulfilled by the Industrial Revolution. If this contradiction had not been resolved by creating a federation of states modelled on the American example in the Old Continent, the disputes between the European nations would have sparked off a new and much more dramatic conflict.
Einaudi was right and in 1945, without changing a word, he returned to his text of 1918 once more warning Europeans against the fatal myth of the nation-state. In the meantime the problem of peace had become even more pressing because, with the atom bomb, man had acquired the capacity of jeopardizing not only the survival of civilization but even of life itself.
This new departure, which added new barbarity to the barbarity of war, induced Einaudi to return to the problem of the most efficient means of banishing all armed conflict from the face of the Earth. To further this goal, it is not sufficient to launch oneself against the atom bomb, subscribing to solemn conventions against its use, writing in newspapers and shouting one’s abhorrence of the new weapon from the rooftops. To banish war, once and for all, there is only one means: “renunciation of military sovereignty by the individual states”. For Einaudi, this was the touchstone with which to measure the sincerity of the intentions of those propounding peace. As a conclusion to the article “Who wants peace?” Einaudi wrote: “When we must distinguish friends from the enemies of peace, we must not stop …at professions of faith, which become louder the more they are deceitful. We must ask: do you want the state in which you live to have complete sovereignty? If the answer is yes, then you are the enemy of peace. Are you, on the other hand, determined to give your vote, your approval only to those who promise to hand over part of their national sovereignty to a new body called the United States of Europe? If your answer is yes and if words become deeds, then, and only then, can you say you are in favour of peace. All the rest is lies”.
To the question: “Are you against the atom bomb?” there is no man in the world who will reply “Yes!” Uncertainty and disagreement arise only when we go on to ask “What is the most effective means against its use?” Would such a means be the mere prohibition accepted and subscribed to by all sovereign states in a solemn international convention? I imagine that we are all agreed in holding that an international pact, which merely and simply prohibited the contracting states from resorting to the use of the atom bomb would be one of the many pieces of paper which would go straight into the waste paper basket when the need arose to implement it. A renewed Kellogg Pact which removed from mankind the states and the men guilty of making and using the atom bomb would be immediately subscribed to by everybody. But it would do nothing to dispel the disquiet that all the peoples of the world have at the mere thought that, despite the ban, the production of the lethal weapon is bound to continue. Indeed the suspicion that such and such a state, evilly minded and relying on the good faith of the others would simply get ready to launch a surprise attack on its enemy, would merely be increased. In other words, the supporters and adversaries of the use of the atom bomb cannot be distinguished merely on the grounds that one lot refuses to subscribe to a convention outlawing the atom bomb. Anyone who may have signed a manifesto against the use of the atom bomb has no good reason to silence anyone who refuses to sign such a manifesto on the grounds that he is the enemy of mankind and a wicked proponent of the use of this most lethal of weapons. The reverse might very well be true: it may be that the person signing the manifesto outlawing the atom bomb is, consciously or unconsciously, precisely the person who, by denying the use of the means to observe the prohibition, is de facto the most effective proponent of the use of the bomb. In this field, as in many other political and social fields, what cannot be seen is rather more important than what can be seen. It is not enough to write on newspapers and shout one’s hatred of the atom bomb from the rooftops. Articles and speeches serve no purpose, until the means to ensure that the prohibition is observed are defined.
There is only one criterion on the basis of which we can judge whether words correspond to serious intentions, proposals really designed to safeguard mankind against the risks of this great scourge. The dilemma is: do we want the prohibition to have effect within the full sovereignty of the states who renounce (the use of the atom bomb) or do we recognize that the prohibition presupposes the renunciation of sovereignty itself? This is the yardstick by which we need to test the seriousness and sincerity of those who argue that they are against the use of the atom bomb.
If we start from the premise of maintaining the full sovereignty of the signatory states, it is useless to go any further. This type of pact is hypocritical and would only serve to foment suspicion and accelerate the fatal path towards the destruction of civilization. It is useless to follow up the banning of the bomb with a promise from every individual country not to fabricate the forbidden weapon. Just as futile is the ceremony of destroying existing bombs and vanity of vanities is the obligation to allow the inspection of one’s own factories by commissions of international experts entrusted with the task of winkling out suspect production of materials liable to be put together to make the wretched weapon. Pacts, promises and obligations of this sort were experimented after the First World War when Germany was defeated and they did not prevent Germany ten years later from presenting itself to the world formidably armed, armed to the teeth in fact, in the midst of virtually disarmed nations. What hope is there of preventing research, experiments, breakthroughs and production in the often huge and inaccessible territories of some of the great modern states? What probability would these wretched investigators have in gaining effective access to the factories which produce arms when the nation-state has a thousand ways of preventing the foreigner from investigating, assessing, realizing the danger in time and giving warnings that it exists? We would have to assume that the sovereign state, through the unanimous conviction of its citizens, would really abandon the idea of using this weapon. But it immediately becomes clear that this is sheer wishful thinking. Is there any serious chance of avoiding the need to pursue and perfect studies on the atom for scientific and industrial purposes from being universally recognized and accepted? The surveys and discoveries in this field are so promising that nobody wants to be last in this stupendous race. But the race to bring benefits to man is fatally intertwined with the race to exterminate man. How could the future UN inspectors or any other such figure, arriving unexpectedly on the scene of the crime, manage to establish whether a process or piece of equipment designed for man’s benefit is not secretly being used for the purposes of war? We would have to assume that the inspectors themselves would have to be the people who made the atom bomb, i.e. that they belonged to organizations secretly maintained by evil states, organizations set up to produce destructive bombs rather than beneficial energy. Only those who produce the forbidden product know the secrets of its production whereas international inspectors only know the lawful processes, those which lead to industrial progress. Is there any remote probability that the contravening state will lend its own technicians specialized in the production of the prohibited weapon to the international inspectors who are supposed to repress the outlawed weapon?
Inevitably we must recognize that for as long as we remain within the concept of sovereign states, banning the atom bomb is mere utopia. Since every sovereign state has the right to exist and defend itself, it also has the duty to exist and defend itself: prohibitions and inspections would only serve to weave mutual deceits, accelerate research and multiply experiments with a view to being the first to possess enough bombs to catch the enemy unawares.
The problem cannot be overcome if we do not give up the military sovereignty of the individual states. Is there perhaps one of the 25 Swiss cantons and half cantons and the 48 North American states which have the slightest preoccupation about the possible use of the atom bomb by one of its confederates? No. Because none of the Swiss cantons or the North American states has any military power, which belongs only to the confederation. The weapons, overt or secret, are designed, perfected, produced and kept only by the federal government; and the cantons and the states, without any proper military organization, are incapable of thinking up and implementing plans to attack other cantons or states belonging to the same sovereign body.
On this road lies the only hope for salvation. It is a long road; but we must begin to follow it, if we are to avoid wasting our time with useless diatribes or hypocritical camouflaging of evil goals. It is pointless delegating absurd international tasks to inspectors. It is important that the inspectors be the only producers. The first requirement is to transfer possession of all the raw materials, all mineral deposits suitable for the production of the atom bomb to an international body, a true super-state, albeit limited for the time being in its goals. No factory should exist beyond those belonging to the international atomic authority, whose personnel should be drawn from all the member states on an equal footing. But the people belonging to the authority would no longer be American or Russian or English or Italian or French officials etc. They would be officials belonging to the authority and bound by conditions of loyalty to it alone. These officials, being part of an authority producing the atom bomb and necessarily knowing perfectly well where production ceases to be industrial and lawful and becomes warlike (it seems that such a moment or point exists and is ascertainable), would not be mere inspectors incapable of penetrating the secrets of others. They would be authors and participants in very new technical procedures and the most unthinkable secrets and they would be able, as far as it is possible to hope, to understand whether one of the member states is going beyond what is lawful to the point where the authority can warn the signatory states of the danger and give sufficient time for it to be repressed. And since the period of time between the moment when production goes beyond the lawful point and when the wicked atom bomb is perfected is quite long, the innocent states, warned of the threat from the wicked state, would have time to produce bombs to counterattack.
Who will give the international authority the monopoly over the deposits of materials suitable in the production of atom bombs and the monopoly — or at the very least control — over the industrial uses over these materials? Who will ban the individual sovereign states from getting hold of the atomic factories in their territory and hiding the existence of deposits needed to produce the necessary raw materials?
Hard questions; which we must candidly ask ourselves if we wish to resolve the problem of peace. For the time being I have tried only to show that an international pact to ban the atom bomb is a vain goal and probably hypocritical; equally vain would be a pact which, although conserving the military sovereignty of the individual states, ingenuously relies on international inspectors. I have also tried to show that the vital condition for the repression of the use of the atom bomb is the transfer of ownership and the use of all that is necessary for its production to an international body which is above the individual states.
But is this condition possible and is it enough?
The shout: “We want peace!” is too human, too nice, too natural for people who have come out of two frightful world wars and threatened by an exterminating Third World War, for it not to be echoed and applauded by men whose hearts are not those of ferocious beasts.
But, immediately, the obvious question crosses the minds of men of reason: “How can we implement this human, Christian proposition?”
There is no point in appealing to new ideals, religious or social transformations. The only guide is historical experience and reasoning. This tells us that those systems which have existed and which have not so far prevented wars cannot be considered a reliable system for preventing wars. No religion is a safer means than any another; because wars have gone hand in hand with a great variety of different religions; and not even the Christian religion bans the defence of one’s own country against unjust aggression. It has always been the case that, against the dictates of the divine commandments, some men are bent on theft, laziness, vagrancy, murder or wars; so that the good can do no more than defend themselves against the wicked.
Nor are social transformations a sure means — because cruel wars have been fought in all social regimes: among shepherds and farmers, in régimes based on the collective ownership of the tribes and peoples, during feudalism and serfdom, before and after the rise and blossoming of the bourgeoisie. The theory of living space was all the rage before and after Nazism and today it seems to be guiding the Russian Communists. Inheritors of the millenia when men conducted a beast-like and anthropophagous life, men often imagine, under the guidance of false prophets, that they can enrich themselves by denuding others. Men of peace in today’s world, who knew intuitively or easily imagined that war could only bring death and min, were deceived by the few people mad keen on domination to wage war on each other; and the savers saw their savings vanish in smoke, the entrepreneurs their ownership of factories and lands threatened and the workers their reward for labour reduced.
If a comparison must be made between opposing systems of social organizations as fomentors of war, the conclusion can only be one: the more the economic forces in a country are independent from the state (the so-called collective will) the easier it will become to maintain peace whereas the more the economy is concentrated in the hands of a single will the easier it will become to slip into war. A society of millions of independent owners, of countless industrialists and tradesmen is a society which wishes to trade with foreign countries, to sell its products on the best markets and acquire the products it needs from abroad cheaply. The many people who wish to improve their fortune need peace and abhor war. In the countries where economic power is, on the other hand, concentrated in the hands of the state, monopolies arise, and riches are obtained by seeking the favours of governors and the ideals of victory and glory of the leaders feed the hunger for large and quick gains by the adventurers who fawn on power. Bourgeois societies, where the privileged monopoly holders of state favours are powerful, are adventurous and bellicose.
Those who love to prey to the damage of the foreigner can be opposed by the only arms which are any good against those who steal from their fellow countrymen or citizens. When a well-organized state did not exist and where it still does not exist today, thrive theft and murder. What have men invented to keep control over thieves and murderers? Policemen, judges and prisons. If the state does not exist, the good and honest man must defend himself by himself, with great effort and poor results. He loses the desire to work, produce and save and the whole of society becomes poorer. The state has therefore taken on the task of choosing and paying policemen, judges and prison guards, so that the good can breathe, work and contribute to reducing poverty and increasing universal wealth.
Against the wholesale slaughter and theft carried out in the name of war by one people against another people there is no remedy other than that of the age-old and universal experience which has proved to be effective against murders and the thefts carried out one by one by man against man: force. Just as the state with its policemen, judges and prison guards keeps thieves and murderers at bay so it is necessary for a force above the state, a super-state, to check those states which wish to attack, rape and plunder others.
Anyone who wants peace must want a federation of states, the creation of a power above that of individual sovereign states. All the rest is pure talk, often vain, and not infrequently designed to hide the intention to wage war and conquer that states which declare themselves to be peaceful really have. We thus reach the same conclusion we reached regarding the atom bomb. It is not enough to shout: ban the bomb, long live peace! if you really want to live and to get the bomb banned. It is vital to desire or at the very least know what is the necessary and sufficient condition for both these desires not to remain thrown in the wind. This condition is called a superior force to that of sovereign states, it is called a federation of states, it is called a super-state. If a judge of the wicked has to exist, if the aggressor must be taken by the neck and forced to desist from robbery, there must exist a force, a superior state to others which has to be obeyed by the individual states, then the individual states must be deprived of the right and possibility to have war or peace.
But beware: the super-state cannot be a League of Nations or a United Nations organization. On January 18, 1918, in these very columns, I argued against the League of Nations which had not then even been founded, but which was noisily championed by many fanciful idealists, including the most vociferous of them all, that Benito Mussolini who subsequently vilified it and contributed to its destruction. I argued then that it was an empty idea which was destined to failure. There is no reason today to think differently about the organization that has replaced it.
As the facts have proved me right regarding the League of Nations, today we can all see that the UN is not an effective instrument for world peace. What is the purpose of a league, an association, behind which must run the good will of each of the associated states to correct the recalcitrant state flouting the collective will? Without its own military force a society of states is fatally the butt of mockery and scorn. For as long as Switzerland was a simple league of sovereign cantons, each of which had its own army, its own customs and its own diplomatic delegation with foreign powers, it was subject to influences from outside and did not possess any true national unity. Only in 1848, created finally after the sad experiences of the intestine war and after the abolition of internal customs when the right to establish duties at the federal border passed from the cantons to the Confederation, did a united and federal Switzerland grow up with the right to coin its own currency, to have an army and ties with foreign countries. An analogous experience occurred two thirds of a century before in what became the United States of America. If the current United States grew up and became great, if nobody threatens the peace in the territory of the land of the stars and stripes, this is due entirely to Washington’s and his collaborators’ genius who saw that the state that they had founded in the war of liberation was lost unless a great step forward was made: if the individual states did not give up the right to surround themselves by customs, to the right to produce their own money, to have an army and diplomatic representatives. By renouncing a part of their sovereignty, the thirteen states kept and still keep the rest, which is the greater part since it relates to the moral and spiritual values of the people. The great step forward was when the Constitution of July 26, 1788 began with the famous words: “We the people of the United States”, and not we the people of the thirteen states, but we “the entire people of the United States”, we decided to found a more perfect union.
With these words, and only with these words, the United States of America suppressed the internal war of their immense territory: creating a new state not made up of sovereign states, but directly constituted by the people of the United States and therefore superior to the states created by the individual parts of the people themselves living in the territories of the individual states. It is vain to imagine and rave about intermediate solutions.
The only means to suppress wars within the territory of Europe is to imitate the example of the American Constitution of 1788, totally renouncing military sovereignty and the right of representation vis-à-vis foreign countries and part of financial sovereignty. If we must proceed down this road gradually, then let the customs Union stipulated between Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg (Benelux) and the one signed by Italy and France be blessed. But it should be clear that this is a mere beginning, beyond which we must begin to follow a very long road with determination. When we must distinguish friends from the enemies of peace, we must not stop therefore at professions of faith, which become louder the more they are deceitful. We must ask: do you want the state in which you live to have complete sovereignty? If the answer is yes, then you are the enemy of peace. Are you, on the other hand, determined to give your vote, your approval only to those who promise to hand over part of their national sovereignty to a new body called the United States of Europe? If your answer is yes and if words become deeds, then, and only then, can you say you are in favour of peace. All the rest is lies.
(Prefaced and edited by Giovanni Vigo)



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