political revue

Year XLV, 2003, Number 2, Page 114



In the wake of the Napoleonic wars and the Congress of Vienna, a number of peace societies, leagues and unions were founded that fought long and at times very hard to prevent new wars from breaking out between the nations of Europe. Their activities flourished right up until the eve of the first world war and paved the way for countless international institutions and organizations, like the Hague Tribunal and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, that have survived to the present day. In the 19th century, the popularity and reach of the peace movement were such as to have spawned campaigns that just a few years before the outbreak of the Great War mobilized millions of people.[1]
But no amount of opposition could prevent the situation from collapsing into war, and in 1935, Lord Lothian clearly explained the reasons: “The anarchy of state sovereignties is the cause of war”, warned Lord Lothian. “Until the peace movement realize this central fact and base their long-distance policy upon it, it will stand in the ranks of those who follow Sisyphus. Every time it succeeds, by immense and consecrated effort, in rolling the stone of national sovereignty near to the top of the hill of international co-operation, it will find that stone slipping out of its control and rushing down to overwhelm its leaders and their followers behind them.”[2]
Lord Lothian’s solution lay in the gradual creation of a world federal state. Such an awareness was undoubtedly lost to most members of the peace movement of the 19th century, but by no means to all. It is a little known yet historically documented fact that during the 19th century the federalist concept actually had a concrete, albeit limited, opportunity to anticipate the birth of a federalist Movement capable of fighting for peace and the United States of Europe. Evidence of this can be found in the struggle of Charles Lemonnier[3] between 1860 and 1891, the year of his death. Though hard to define as the same type of genuine federalist activism we know today, his struggle is nevertheless part of the history of what would eventually become 20th century European federalism.
What was the scenario that gave rise to Lemonnier’s vision? To answer this question it is necessary to dwell briefly on the historical situation that developed after the final defeat of Napoleonic France and the convocation of the Congress of Vienna, events that provided the framework for the birth of the peace Movement and the 19th century plans for reorganizing Europe. The terrible wars that Europe endured for over 20 years had deeply scarred the lives and consciences of the Europeans, leading an increasing number of individuals to strive to prevent other conflicts. Many influential figures ventured into the political arena as a belated but lasting reaction of the French Revolution, deeply changing the way politicians and ordinary citizens viewed power.
The history books emphasize above all the restorative forces that materialized following the fall of Napoleon, but in reality after the Congress of Vienna, Europe’s political powers realized that there was a need to give their choices at least the appearance of legitimacy. The decision of the plenipotentiaries of Austria, Prussia, Great Britain and Russia to restore the dynasties removed by the Revolution and the Napoleonic campaigns had to allow for the fact that public opinion could no longer be ignored — it was necessary to give at least the impression that the voice of ordinary people were being listened to.[4]
The Congress of Vienna attempted to set up a system of semi-permanent congresses — Vienna was followed by another four events up till 1822 — whose objective was to redesign constitutions, borders and spheres of influence. Given the number of delegates and the institutional aims it set itself, several American scholars have defined this system as the first European Constitutional Convention.[5]
The fact remains that personalities such as Metternich and Talleyrand realized, or perhaps simply feared, that in the wake of the French Revolution no sovereign power could exist and act without listening to the opinion of its citizens. In fact, Talleyrand recognized in Vienna that “the spirit of the present Age in great civilized states demands that supreme authority shall not be exercised except with the concurrence of representatives chosen by the people subject to it”.[6]
This was hardly mere propaganda, but rather genuine concern: evidence in the fact that the Congress of Vienna first obliged the restored King of France to receive a mandate from the French Senate to reacquire the crown, then demanded that the smaller German states accept the federal parliament in Frankfurt. Against such a backdrop it is not hard to understand how an intellectual of alternating fortunes such as Saint-Simon might conceivably address a memorandum directly to the Congress of Vienna concerning the reorganization of Europe[7] wherein the author suggests instituting a European parliament comprised of representatives of the various European peoples capable of controlling a true European government.
Saint-Simon acknowledged that it was impossible to set up such a parliament in the short term, starting from such different levels of parliamentarianism in the various countries, and therefore advised beginning with a core European parliament formed by France and Great Britain, the two nations which had the longest experience of a parliamentary system.
This, therefore, was the atmosphere against which the aforementioned leagues, unions and societies for peace burgeoned and started to organize their activities through local, national and latterly international Congresses, that were staged at regular intervals from 1816 until the eve of the Great War, when the Peace Congress that was due to meet in Vienna in September 1914 had to be cancelled.
In the space of a few short years, peace ceased to be simply the subject of discussions and struggles of a moral and religious nature. Peace became a bone of contention between two opposing political approaches: one merely internationalist, arguing for the nations of Europe to set up an international tribunal and demanding arbitration as a means for resolving conflicts, and the other in favour of creating a European federation.
Initially the latter objective was supported mainly by the American members of the peace movement; in 1844 they recommended putting together a continental campaign for the creation of a European Congress. At the time, European pacifists were largely in favour of striving for an international tribunal. Later the peace movement in Europe split into two camps: on the one hand, the unreservedly internationalist International and Permanent Peace League guided by Passy, and on the other the International League for Peace and Freedom steered by Lemonnier, based on Kant’s perpetual peace project, the Saint-Simon initiative and the American federal model. It was Lemonnier’s league that organized what many re-named “the great assize of European democracy”, in Geneva in 1867.[8]
As the texts proposed here suggest, Lemonnier was well aware of the problems associated with fostering a political peace movement capable of distancing itself from Passy’s movement, which was driven by vaguely moralistic, religious and anti-militaristic attitudes. Lemonnier did not believe that creating an international tribunal would succeed in solving the problem of war, as Passy’s movement claimed. But on his own Lemonnier could do little. On his side, Lemonnier had his pro-Saint-Simon friends and, after 1858, also Evariste Mangin, director of the Phare de la Loire, whom Lemonnier credits with inventing the mechanism for calling what would eventually become a sort of Congress of delegates of the European people, as we shall see later.
Following the failure of the system inaugurated in Vienna of “roving Congresses” designed to govern the new Europe with at least a minimal degree of consensus, the great powers implemented policies that gradually narrowed freedom of expression in order to maintain the ever precarious European order, clamping down on liberal-democratic and national movements. Thus it was that after the events of 1848, it became very difficult to foster political activities. The situation was not too different in France in 1867, when the risk of a Franco-Prussian conflict to solve the Luxembourg question raised deep concerns among public opinion. The crisis was averted with the recognition of Luxembourg’s neutrality, but in the wake of this narrowly avoided threat, the issue of peace was once again in the spotlight. This was the atmosphere behind the idea of organizing an international peace Congress in Geneva in September of that year.
The Manifesto that appeared in June 1867, calling the Congress, read: “The Geneva congress proposes to determine the political and economic conditions for achieving peace between peoples, and in particular for founding the United States of Europe. The congress aspires to be the assize of European democracy, in the name of the ideals of the French Revolution and the awakening of consciences.” Mangin’s approach toward publicizing and emphasizing the democratic nature of such a Congress in an environment of limited individual freedoms was simple and respected the laws of the time: under French law, groups of no more than 20 people could lawfully meet together, and accordingly Mangin advised Lemonnier to call for groups of 20 people to meet in every large city and elect a delegate; articles and appeals would later appear in the press asking for the opinion of the delegate’s fellow citizens and their approval to represent them at the European Congress.
Mangin hoped that this approach would lead to implementing Saint-Simon’s plans for a European parliament. The 1867 peace congress was scheduled to take place almost concurrently with the First International. It was hoped that delegates would participate in both assemblies. But Karl Marx opposed this idea and explicitly encouraged the delegates attending the First International to desert the peace Congress. Nevertheless the Congress was a great success, attracting over 6000 participants including Giuseppe Garibaldi, Victor Hugo, Mikhail Bakunin and Amand Goegg, the German democratic former minister of Baden, who would eventually support Lemonnier in the publication of the bilingual monthly Les Etats Unis d’Europe — Die Vereinigten Staaten von Europa (The United States of Europe).
The hopes and plans for the Geneva Congress were hard hit by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, a war that fuelled the peace movement guided by Passy which favoured international arbitration. In an effort to reorganize his own movement, in 1872 Lemonnier wrote a pamphlet on the United States of Europe, and in 1878 he spoke out at the peace Congress organized in Paris by Passy who had tried to marginalize the 1867 movements; Lemonnier again criticized the international arbitration proposal and advised against involving Tsarist Russia in such a system. He restated the objective of federation, starting from the United States, France, Italy and Great Britain. His project involved asking these countries to stipulate an initial thirty-year cooperation treaty preparatory to the institution of a federal pact.[9]
However, history was about to take another turn, narrowing the gap that had separated the nationalistic aspirations and claims of the worker’s movement. In the space of just a few years, the United States — regarded as the reference point for building international institutions capable of guaranteeing and promoting peace — built the foundations of its rise to world power status. Goegg, co-editor of The United States of Europe, had some time earlier decided to promote commitment to the German social-democratic movement. Throughout the Eighties, Passy’s popularity continued to increase: he was elected twice to the Chamber of Deputies, while Lemonnier’s popularity waned. At the universal peace Congress of 1889 Lemonnier, now an old man, finally admitted that the common denominator for all pacifists was the battle for international arbitration.
Ten years after, the peace movement had committed itself so strongly to supporting this battle, and the issue of arbitration had become so popular, that hundreds of thousands of signatures were gathered throughout Europe in support of the initiative of Tsar Nicholas II, who advised calling an international conference to institute an international tribunal (eventually staged in 1899 with the creation of the permanent Court of the Hague). Fifteen years later, to use Lord Lothian’s imagery, the stone of national sovereignty would crush these fragile constructions and what remained of the peace movement.
Everything that there was to say against war has, rightly enough, already been said. Yet war is still waged. Anathemas pronounced against war have vanished like smoke. People have proven themselves to be as bloodthirsty as kings, and madder than kings, because it is the blood of the people that is shed when there is war.
It is no longer a case of putting war on trial. War is still in our midst: who will destroy it? Philosophy, economics, morals — none has anything more to say.
As for religion, it has often been the cause of wars. Religion can at the same time bless and condemn, forgive and blame, excommunicate or sanctify all the flags faithful to its creed.
As we write, the world is still reeling from the consequences of the war between France and Germany. Both countries, on which the peace and freedom of Europe depend, are stained by the blood of their sons, and still, one craves for revenge while the other takes pride in its shameful victory.
Alsace and Lorraine, stormed, plundered, enslaved yet never subdued; France, which paid its contribution in blood for twenty years of Caesarism, a ravaged Germany that sacrificed herself for the Kaiser who dishonors her; force prevails over law and rises up to judge; selfish Europe fills herself with soldiers; work, science, vested interests, all are at the service of destruction: this is the spectacle of Europe.
Five, soon six, million men at arms; five, six billion francs a year spent on war, without counting the war damages Germany claimed from France: this is the result of Europe’s armed peace.
Will things always be like this? Will this utopia of peace — real peace, not armed peace which is nothing other than a truce, but real lasting peace — which is a reality on the other side of the Ocean, will it ever be achieved on this continent?
Are we condemned to pursue that which is right without ever reaching it? To see truth without being able to practice it? To bathe in blood without ever breaking free of this slavery? Are we beasts or men? Though we see that which is right, will we never have the will to attain it, nor the strength to submit to it? Why is the example offered by the peoples of Switzerland and America in vain for us? What has been done so far to establish peace in Europe? Why have all efforts to achieve it failed? What is being done today? What can we hope for? But above all, what can we do — what must we done to ensure that peace is no longer merely a dream? These are the questions we must try to answer.
[Editor’s note: At this point in his pamphlet, Lemonnier presents several projects for peace, formulated in the past by Henry IV, the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, Kant and Saint-Simon. He then describes the structure and organization of Peace Societies in the United Kingdom and America, the nature of the Ligue internationale et permanente de la Paix and lastly, the Ligue internationale de la paix, of which he presents the political guidelines. We resume his original text at this point.]
Since its birth, the Ligue internationale de la paix has distinguished itself from all other international societies for peace by its clear affirmation of a political program…
It is not our intention to trace the history [of its first Congress, Editor’s note],[10] nor that of its successive congresses. Suffice it to briefly mention the principal resolutions approved on that occasion, which state:
the great states of Europe have proven themselves incapable of maintaining peace and ensuring the development of all the moral and material energies of modern society;
the existence and growth of standing armies are the sign of the existence of a state of latent war incompatible with the maintenance of the freedom and wellbeing of every social class, primarily the working class;
the Congress, desiring to found peace upon democracy and freedom, hereby
to establish a Ligue internationale de la paix, a true cosmopolitan federation;
that it will be the duty of each member of this League to work to inform and form public opinion as to the true nature of government, the executor of the general will, and as to the means for extirpating the ignorance and prejudices that are at the basis of war;
and decides moreover
to institute a standing central committee and to found a French-German newspaper: the United States of Europe.
Thereafter the third Congress (Lausanne, 1869), under the presidency of Victor Hugo, sought above all to define the basis of a federal organization for Europe. It is worth mentioning the motion voted on this issue as it clearly specifies the aim of the League:
the fundamental and permanent cause of the state of war in which Europe finds itself is the absence of any form of international judicial institution;
that the primary condition allowing an international tribunal to replace with its judicial decisions the solutions that war and diplomacy impose with force and subterfuge, consists in the fact that such a tribunal should be freely and directly elected and instituted thanks to the will of the people and that it should act on the basis of international laws freely voted by those same peoples;
irregardless of this tribunal’s moral authority, in order for its decisions to be effective, the execution of said decisions must be sanctioned by a coercive force;
said force cannot exist legitimately unless it is constituted, regulated and governed by the direct will of the people;
together these three institutions (an international law, a tribunal enforcing the law, and a power ensuring the execution of the decisions of the tribunal) constitute a government;
the Congress hereby decides:
that the only means of establishing peace in Europe is through the creation of a federation of peoples under the name of the United States of Europe;
that the government of this union shall be republican and federal, that is, it must reside in the principle of the sovereignty of the people, and respect the autonomy and independence of each member of the confederation;
that the constitution of this government shall be amendable...
that no people shall become a member of the European Confederation without having won: universal suffrage, the right to decide on taxes, the right to declare peace and war, the right to conclude or ratify political alliances and commercial treaties, the right to amend its constitution.
The United States of Europe.
This slogan, which is still a prophesy, has become a program and a formula, and entered the language of politics on a day of struggle.[11] On 17 July 1851, on the occasion of discussions in the French Legislative Assembly on an insidious proposal to review the constitution, Victor Hugo took the floor… the great poet, induced by the nature of the discussion and by the animosity of his adversaries to reflect on the future, exclaimed: “Yes! The French people have carved out of indestructible stone and placed in the midst of the old monarchic continent the first brick of this immense construction that one day will be named the United States of Europe”.
In three words, Victor Hugo had summarized Kant!
[Editor’s note: before reaching his conclusions, Lemonnier describes the nature of the United States of America, the federal model to which Europeans must aspire.]
The reader may be wondering how far away we are from achieving this wonderful utopia?
We will ardently reply that we are as far away as we want to be. It is up to each and every one of us to transform this utopia into reality. Let us not simply imagine that it is up to our neighbor to act, let us try to understand what has to be done, and let us do it.
If we have explained ourselves clearly up to now, the reader will have realized that the principle on which the creation of the United States of Europe is founded, that is the creation on the juridical level of a federation of peoples, is the very principle of republic, which is none other than the principle of morality.
Therefore neither we, nor our homes, nor our schools, can ever teach our children well without implicitly indicating to them the goal of the United States of Europe. We cannot be fair towards our workers, towards our employers, towards our masters, towards our servants, without bringing into being the United States of Europe.
The United States of Europe are in the middle of the road traced by the revolution, not the French, but the European Revolution of 1789 and 1791. Everything that is done for liberty, equality and brotherhood, or for the emancipation of women and children, is done for the United States of Europe…
To found [the United States of Europe] it is not necessary to destroy nations, or weaken patriotism. On the contrary, the very concept of a federation contains and supposes a plurality of nations, a distinction between states, a diversity: therefore the fatherland, but also the village!
Now we may consider how to build the United States of Europe, day after day, before our very eyes, and with our own hands. For each of us, it is a question of being aware or not of what we are doing.
If we live in a nation without universal suffrage, let us work to achieve it. If we belong to a people who has already won this right, let us exercise it actively and wisely, helping our compatriots to understand it and use it, endeavoring to elect honest representatives, and let us be aware of what we must ask and demand of them.
Federation cannot be established unless among peoples with a very advanced political organization. Now, among the peoples of Europe, only one people, the Swiss, have so far achieved this level of development. But it is obvious that the only policy that a Republic can pursue is the policy of federation. Therefore, as soon as Europe has two Republics that are strong enough to offer each other sufficient guarantees, their union will form the first concrete foundations for the United States of Europe.
The main difficulty in creating a European federal government is that we are unaccustomed to conceiving of governments in any other form than that inspired by the dynastic principle. Dynasties are by their nature jealous, selfish, suspicious, hostile amongst themselves. The need to dominate peoples and to deceive them, as La Boétie said, may lead dynasties to form only false alliances. But for Republics, the opposite is true, because for them the founding principle is association. Imagine a Republic formed by two European peoples, a little like what is already happening in Switzerland and the United States, and what could happen tomorrow to France. What could be more natural and simple than an alliance uniting the two nations under the common law of a federation that they themselves forged?
We can already imagine the precise moment in which the United States of Europe comes into being: it will be the moment when two or three great European nations will have acquired, by virtue of having attained a sufficient degree of development, that level of social and political awareness that allows a people, that has at last come of age, to take awareness of itself and give itself the form of a Republic.
The modern notion of Republic is that of a government founded on the autonomy of the individual, hence the creation and affirmation of the Republic cannot occur but peacefully and by the free consensus of a majority of citizens.
The Republic contradicts the principle on which it is founded and disintegrates, the instance that it tries to base itself on deceit or force.
Therefore to teach the importance of the Republic is to teach peace, to invoke peace is to invoke the Republic. It would not be pointless, but it would take too long and be too difficult, to indicate the degree of progress attained so far by each of us along this pathway towards the goal we have set ourselves for the advancement of all peoples.
Thus it would be puerile to expect to indicate the exact hour in which we will see peace truly establish itself in Europe through the realization of the great idea we have attempted to sketch out. We must know how to wait, working all the while, and work, without tiring. Every day we will glimpse a little more of the horizon.
History teaches us that after every war there has always been a powerful desire for peace. The consequence is obvious and raises new hopes. If no war has ever appeared more horrible, cruel, bloody and inhuman than that which we have experienced during this last sad and terrible year, then perhaps we may legitimately believe that we are readier now than ever before to establish a real and lasting peace, founded on liberty and justice, which will forever place force at the service of the law.
(Prefaced and edited by Franco Spoltore)

[1] See: Sandi Cooper, Patriotic Pacifism, New York, Oxford University Press, 1991.
[2] Lord Lothian, Pacifism is not enough nor Patriotism either (London, 1935) in Pacifism is not enough, John Pinder and Andrea Bosco eds., London 1990.
[3] Charles Lemonnier (1808?-1891). As a young philosophy teacher unwilling to abide by the rules of the Sorèze College, particularly the obligation to introduce students to Catholicism, he left teaching at the age of 21. In 1829 he became a fervent follower of Saint-Simon’s doctrine of historical progress and the emancipation of the human race, turning to agitation in Montpellier, Paris and Toulouse. With his wife Elisa, who was involved in the movement for the recognition of women’s rights, he also contributed financially for some time to Saint-Simon’s cause, up until 1831-32, when the Saint-Simonian movements were disbanded. He began practising maritime law in 1834 in Bordeaux, where he also wrote a book on maritime insurance. In 1845 he returned to Paris to take up an administrative post with the Chemins de Fer du Nord. In 1854 he founded the Revue religieuse et philosophique, which was immediately banned by the emperor. In 1859 he published the works of Saint-Simon. Starting in 1867 his involvement centred primarily on the organization and activities of the League for peace and freedom, mentioned extensively in the introduction; he attended all of the League’s congresses up to 1889 in his capacity as vice chairman and editor of the Franco-German monthly Les Etats-Unis d’Europe — Die Vereinigten Staaten von Europa.
[4] Philip Bobbit, The Shield of Achilles, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.
[5] Ibidem, p. 542.
[6] Ibidem, p. 554.
[7] Saint-Simon, “De la réorganisation de la société Européenne”, in L ‘Europe de Saint-Simon, by Charles-Olivier Carbonelle, Toulouse, Privat, 2001.
[8] Sandi Cooper, op. cit., p. 36.
[9] Sandi Cooper, op. cit., p. 50.
* Charles Lemonnier, Les Etats Unis d’Europe, Librairie de la Bibliothèque Démocratique, Paris, 1872.
[10] The Congress opened in Geneva on 9 September 1867, under the Chairmanship of Giuseppe Garibaldi (editor’s note).
[11] Mazzini had already seen and affirmed the idea of European Federation, but had not yet defined it.



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