political revue


Year XXXI, 1989, Number 2, Page 121



1. Towards a new way of thinking.
The human race is facing a historical turning point of unprecedented importance. Its very survival is in danger. Mankind may reach new heights of liberty, equality and fraternity, or may disappear off the face of the earth. To meet this challenge, we have to find a new political thinking dictated by careful examination of this radically new situation. To put it more clearly, we have to integrate traditional political thinking, which enables us to analyse established forms of social life, with thinking suited to our time, thinking that captures the new forms that public life must assume in order to halt our headlong rush towards the abyss and find the capacity for progress once more.
The need for new thinking is universally acknowledged. There is universal acknowledgement in particular about the fact that the major problems of all countries cannot be solved at the national level, but at the continental and global level. But when we move from individual problems to examining the progress and planning of political action, this supranational vision disappears: only national actions carried out by national powers and aiming, at the most, for international compromises, are taken into consideration and considered feasible. Because of this, when we actually think about taking action, these problems — including the survival of the human race — vanish from sight, or are examined under the distorting criteria of foreign policy; in other words we are locked into the mentality of power politics, which does not even permit us to understand that solutions to these problems can only be reached by common decisions of all the people involved — i.e. that what is at stake is the creation of international democracy.
Europe and the world have already known the tragic significance of failing to understand their historical situation. Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism and the Second World War were the direct consequence of having applied old, that is national, criteria to new events, which could not easily be confined to the purely national context. Now we are running an analogous risk of far greater proportions. Finally people are talking of a crisis of ideologies, or, to be more precise, of the limits of the traditional ideologies, from liberalism to Marxism; and of the impossibility of understanding the historical situation we are living in through these frames of reference. But we are only halfway there, because this critical awareness has not yet produced the necessary historical frame of reference to reconstruct political thinking starting from what is at stake today, and not from what was at stake when the old ideologies were formed.
However, in this context there is a glimmer of hope: the new wind of history, i.e. the political consequences of the technological development and growing interdependence of all human actions has finally hit the USA and the USSR, which as the major powers bear the heaviest responsibilities. Alongside the concept of traditional détente there has emerged in the thinking of Gorbachev a clear image of a new kind of détente, an organized peacemaking throughout the human race. This represents a conceptual move towards that ground which needs to be explored, and which has to be acted upon to resolve all mankind’s greatest problems, starting with that of ecology. Never mind those who do not believe that politics can regain its lost greatness: let us clearly state that this ground is federalistic.
The central problem is peace. At the level Gorbachev brings it to when affirming that it is a question not of class struggle but of the unanimous action of all men and all peoples, it represents a foretaste of a political development which becomes clear only if conceived of as the struggle to unite the human race into progressive action politically, which goes as far as attributing common democratic powers to mankind, considered as a unit. This does not involve destroying existing or potential democratic powers at the national or continental level, or at any other autonomous level of social life.
Only with the idea of this path and with the constitutional science of federalism — enlarging the sphere of democratic government from the state to a group of states — can the action of everyone be gradually directed towards the formation of the necessary new powers, at every level of society, to resolve the problems of the survival and progress of the human race. It is not a question of eliminating nations, nor of nullifying the conquests of the great developments of liberal and social thought. It is a question of uniting nations by uniting people with the only possible international democratic bond: federalism. It is a question of applying traditional ideologies to established forms of public life, of building a new world, with federalism as a criterion of knowledge and action, by fighting for international democracy and its gradual extension to the entire human race. The democratisation of international relationships means either this or nothing.
In this respect Europe has a special responsibility because it is already at the crossroads between the old world of nations armed one against the other and the new world. With the twelve nations of the Community, or with the six which founded it, together with those prepared to develop it, Europe can already experience new international democracy. Already the Community’s citizens have the right to the European vote. Thus Europe has only to respect the principles of democracy and give voters the power to choose Community policy, in order to realize the first historical experience of a free government by a society of free nations, each of which can defend its interests by law rather than by force. Meanwhile, because of individual nation-states’ inability to defend themselves alone, it is in Europe that the extreme consequences of the politics of the past, the politics of force, have been made manifest, have persisted and can be eliminated only by uniting the nations. It is in Europe that this policy has reached the level of madness, with strategic plans based on nuclear arms, with the prospect of assured mutual destruction, with military blocs and with the incessant race to stockpile ever more destructive weapons.
Thus the situation in Europe may give rise to a new political way of thinking and acting. But we have to avoid falling into the last trap, more common than one would think: it consists in recognizing the need for a new thought, but not that for a new kind of will. This failure leaves us confused, prisoners of old rites and formulae which the unready mind is unable to abandon or destroy. This is the situation the political parties find themselves in, despite their recognition of the crisis of ideologies. For this reason, the Movimento Federalista Europeo — which was founded by Altiero Spinelli during the Second World War precisely on the basis of the perceived historical limits of liberalism, national democracy and Marxism — has decided to identify, in its 14th Congress, the questions to be examined in order to enable both thought and our will to face the challenge of our time. On these themes the Movimento Federalista Europeo will then develop a close dialogue with the political and social forces, starting at the grassroots, persisting until each has declared its position.
The first question concerns how the alternative is to be seen. If by this term we mean not the simple alternation of people and parties in power, but the introduction of new elements into the historical process, then what has to be clarified is the fact that in Italy, as in other EC countries, the political alternative has now assumed a European and global dimension. The second question concerns European politics and its relationship with national politics. It is a question which must be considered, and which must become central to political debate, because good government in Italy — as in other European countries — requires not only good domestic policy and good foreign policy, but also, and above all, good European policy which is able to serve the interests of the citizens in the two fundamental sectors of defence and the economy, which can no longer be governed on a national level. The third question is what must be, here and now, the European policy of Italy. If we bear in mind that Italy is the only country in which all parties are favourable to a federal development of the Community, then it becomes clear that Italy can and must oppose the rearguard battle of the British government against opening the borders, European currency and a common fiscal policy: Italy must be in the vanguard, fighting for the conferral of a constituent mandate on the European Parliament, and must maintain a strong front, ready to mobilize the European forces in other countries, by promptly passing in the second reading the constitutional bill to add a referendum on the constituent mandate to the European elections in June. The fourth question concerns how European politics fit into world politics. This position can be described by distinguishing traditional détente from the innovative détente, and must be seen for what it is: the dawn of a new era, in which the supreme task will be that of giving a global dimension to the values of liberty, equality and fraternity.
2. The European and world dimension of the political alternative.
Italy has never fully and stably known the function of the alternative in its normal democratic form, as the recurring outcome of the opposition’s proposing an alternative programme to the government’s programme. Because of this, the problem of alternative government has raised the problem — which regularly reappears on the scene — of the alternative as an institutional matter, where it is no longer a question of comparing two government programmes, but of setting up against the current institutional system — which does not allow the normal logic of the alternative — an institutional system which does allow it. And at this point, according to current opinion, the question is defined. But in reality it is not.
In effect, what has to be considered is that the alternation of politicians and parties in power, when it is not a pathological event, is not an end in itself, a game limited to the political class, but an institutional means of making political change transparent and normal; in practical terms, it is the means of bringing to an end power situations which block the development of society by impeding the solution of problems as they arise, and replacing them by power situations which allow these problems to be solved and society to advance. But this is precisely what is missing in Italy (with the notorious consequences of immobilism, unprincipled attachment to power and people’s distrust of politics) for a reason which everyone knows without drawing the logical conclusions: Italy’s major problems, starting with those which question its autonomy (defence and the orientation of the economic process), cannot be solved within the national context. This is why alternatives do not succeed, and why in the disfigured forms in which they appear, they are ineffectual. This is why the nation-state is essentially obsolete. And this is why a recomposition of the parties would not be enough, and should therefore be projected, like the alternative itself, in the European context.
Now the fact we must focus on is that the European alternative, and with it the solution to the Italian institutional problem, is at stake. Italy’s situation, like that of the other European states, is indeed about to change rapidly. Since the progress toward a single market is now irreversible, a sharp alternative is now posed in drastic terms: either build the monetary and political-institutional unity of Europe together with its economic unity, or accept a huge deregulation which would penalise the weakest parts of European society and would make ecological control of the economy practically impossible.
These would not be the only consequences. Without a European democratic power, Europe, and Italy with it, could not compete in civilized terms with Japan and the US, could but contribute to the reform of the international monetary system, give a powerful momentum to the emancipation process of Third World countries, fully support the development of the Arab nation in the context of reconciliation between a Palestinian state and Israel, or finally do all it can to produce a peaceful Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, to renew Eastern Europe and to democratise the Soviet Union. Either directly or indirectly, all the great options of our times are at stake: peace, ecologic control of the Earth, economic, social and moral development of all men. But they are at stake only for a European power, not for an Italian power which, if it had to rely exclusively on itself, would not even be able to avoid the wild deregulation of the European market and its severe political and social consequences.
In any case, a conclusion is necessary. We are not merely facing a government alternative, not even a regime alternative, but a true community alternative. In order to live autonomously, and ensure the future of its citizens, Italy must cease to be an exclusive national community and become an open national community in the context of a true European community.
3. National policy and European policy.
The expression “European policy” is ambiguous. If used in relation to a country which does not belong to the European Community it is perfectly obvious: the foreign policy of that country in a particular area (Europe). If on the other hand it is used in relation to a member-state of the Community, it is anything but obvious: a policy separate from both domestic and foreign policy, which together form national policy. The sphere of action covered by European policy is well known: participation in the running of the Community, the pursuit of European unity, the institutional design for building up Europe, and so on. But the character of this policy in reality remains little known until it is known where to locate it, and what its origins, its nature and its outlets are.
In essence, the origin of European politics can be described as follows. At the end of the Second World War, when faced with the problems of economic recovery and the choice of how to re-order defence, many European countries found themselves faced with no alternative. For them there was only one way: to accept American protection and, protected by this shield, organize their economy and defence in the only suitable context, the European one. The Americans realized the situation even before the Europeans did, and immediately offered their protection. The Europeans hesitated. Their governments confusedly searched for national solutions. De Gaulle even went to Moscow to re-establish the Franco-Russian alliance as an anti-German measure. But it was not long before the only possible order, the Euro-American one, was established. The Europeans recognized the need to take the most important decisions concerning defence, currency and economic control in the European context, or taking it into account, and so guided their common history into a new direction which still holds good today.
This had three important consequences. One is that the final seat of power for these countries was clearly shifted from the national to the European context, the value of which immediately becomes clear if we bear in mind that from then on French, Italian or other national defence in the strategic sense ceased to exist, being replaced by a single European defence. The second is that, because of this, it became necessary to have a European policy (conceived and realized in the European context, in co-operation with other countries) alongside national policy (conceived and realized in the national context). The third is that European policy, in as far as it generates a situation in which there is no longer any defence where there is a government, and where there is a defence there is no government yet (analogous considerations apply in the case of currency, etc.), creates a power vacuum — only partly covered by American hegemony — which has to be filled. The history of European unification is, objectively speaking, the history of attempts to fill this vacuum: a history imposed by events more than by the will of parties and guided in fact by the federalist vanguard.
There are (or were) only two possible ways to fill this power vacuum: by a European government of a federal nature, or by a process towards this federal goal as a concrete means of making the policies of the different countries converge. The value of these solutions, both of a federalist nature, has effectively made itself felt right from when this power vacuum first appeared and made it possible to pursue the objective of a united Europe. The first solution, for which Altiero Spinelli fought, puts federation at the beginning, in the sense that it conceives it as the goal of a constitutional struggle, and not as the result of a gradual process of building Europe, which in Spinelli’s opinion is impossible because the power indispensable for the existence of a federal government cannot be transferred by degrees from the nations to Europe: either it is transferred or it is not. The second solution — which held the field for a long time — was that followed by Jean Monnet. We might designate Monnet’s as weak federalism, and Spinelli’s as strong federalism. These expressions are justified by the observation that Monnet’s strategy, to the extent that it places federal power at the end ofa gradual process and does not sle,e a federal government as the engine driving this process, can only be conducted by an intergovernmental mechanism (like that in fact created by Monnet, the Community) and thus only with the mobilization of national forces interested in European solutions.
The advantage of Monnet’s strategy is that it can involve the active forces of the nations without asking for a constitutional precondition. Thus the European policy of the states as normally expressed is fully exploited, that is when the European objectives on the table do not require a transfer of sovereign powers; and thus the coinciding of national and European policy, inevitable because they have the same object, is found in the phases in which it is national policy that determines the objectives of European policy. The disadvantage of this strategy consists in the fact that it cannot be carried out in a democratic manner because it requires European decisions which are no longer controlled by national parliaments and not yet controlled by the European Parliament (thus there is a democratic deficit in the Community). It also consists in the fact that it is a strategy for keeping European unity on the agenda, but not for bringing it to a successful outcome. In effect it is worth nothing (as might be ascertained when an attempt was made to raise a European army to avoid the rebirth of the German army) when European objectives are such as to demand a transfer of sovereign power to Europe.
One has only to reverse this analysis to establish the advantages and disadvantages of Spinelli’s strategy. The advantages derive from the fact that with federal power as the starting point it would be up to European democracy to determine ways and means, structures and deadlines for European unification. The disadvantage consists in the extreme difficulty of setting up a constituent assembly at the beginning of the process, with the parties still closely tied to the national powers. In any case there is a crucial consideration to be recalled. When the European objectives are not pursuable without a transfer of sovereign powers, and thus in cases when the battle for Europe can be won, the only valid strategy is that of Spinelli. In essence Spinelli’s strategy highlights the phase in which, with national and European policy coinciding, it is European policy which determines the European objectives of national policy. At this moment, on the threshold of 1992, we are once more (after the ECD pact) in a phase of this nature.
4. Italy’s European Policy.
The question of Italy’s European policy has become crucial, even if people are not yet aware of this. To return to some points previously touched on, we can say that the Italian political debate has not yet managed to come to terms with the fact that Italy is facing a turning point in her history which requires European decisions, and not merely Italian. There is a practically irreversible process towards economic unity. There is very substantial process towards the Monetary Union. Thus we have to decide what the political framework of the European market will be. But for the moment there is only one resolve, one project tenaciously promoted, which is that of the British government, who would like to entrust the control of the market to existing powers: those of the strongest nation-states and those of the large economic-financial groups organized on a European and worldwide scale.
The democratic parties, which after all are by their very nature hostile to a political market of this nature, nevertheless are not yet fighting, or are not fighting hard enough, for the only possible alternative, the constitution of a European democratic power which is indispensable when regulating the European economy. If and when this power exists, it will be possible to speak of left or right wing European governments. But as long as the executive of the Community continues not to depend on the European Parliament, i.e. on the European electors, nothing of the kind will be possible, and even less so a social Europe, a Europe of security and so on, which incredibly enough are called for from time to time, without at the same time a democratic European power being called for.
These contradictory tendencies depend on the fact that the political parties still cannot see clearly the alternatives they are faced with: that of a European government to regulate the European economy at home and represent it abroad or that of a headless, undemocratic European economy, which amounts to a serious increase in the democratic deficit of the Community, and the appalling prospect of a power vacuum in Europe and the world caused by the existence of a modern market of 320 million inhabitants neither regulated at home nor represented on the international level. It is hardly necessary to demonstrate the dangers of such madness in a world such as ours, which is faced with the problem even of its own survival. It is for these reasons that it is necessary to provoke a major qualitative change in the European policy of individual countries towards a strong federalism. And in this respect Italy bears a special responsibility, because Italy is the only country which can take the initiative for a qualitative leap towards strong federalism in a sufficient number of countries, as it did between 1951 and 1953 when it obtained the convening of the ad hoc Assembly to prepare the statute of the political Community. As for the first point (a qualitative leap towards strong federalism), the need for this is sufficiently obvious if we recall that governments proposed to set up a Union as far back as 1972, but have not yet managed to do so. As for the second point — Italy’s responsibility — suffice it to recall that Italy is the only country where all political parties are in favour of giving a constituent mandate to the European Parliament, and where this attitude has begun to turn into an effective political decision with the first vote in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate in favour of a constitutional act to call together with the European elections a referendum on the constituent mandate.
In almost all EC countries a large majority of citizens is in favour of a European government, the constituent mandate and a European referendum. But no government dares take the first step. With the definitive vote for the act mentioned above, Italy, by showing that a sovereign state can want the European Constituent, would release the enormous European potential which exists all over the continent, and which is now blocked by the very fact that generally people do not believe that a sovereign state can really show itself resolved to confer the constituent mandate to the European Parliament. Italy can, and must therefore, knock down this mental block by firmly and tenaciously maintaining its constitutional European position and sustaining it with the same vigour with which the United Kingdom maintains the opposite position. If a great debate of this nature is born in Europe, we will certainly reach a sufficient number of countries to confer a constituent mandate on the European Parliament.
5. The dawn of a new era.
It is hard to look into the future, but one point is clear. The major problem which, even if to varying degrees, will decide the solution of all the others, is that of détente. To give a more precise meaning to this evaluation, it is, however, necessary to make a conceptual distinction between traditional détente and innovative détente. Schematically speaking, détente may be considered “traditional” when it remains, both in vision and in practice, within the old context of power politics where security is based on strength, even if this principle is applied with moderation and prudence and takes into account not only military strength, but also economic, political, cultural, moral strength and so on. The theoretical and practical limit of this type of détente is that it cannot see or develop, through new political conceptions and new institutions, what is radically new in human evolution as regards the factor of strength in determining political conduct. It is perfectly true, in fact, that the invention of nuclear arms — like the risk of an ecological disaster — has drastically changed the basis on which politics and law have rested until now. On the other hand, détente can be considered “innovative” when it tries to go beyond power politics as far as possible, by substituting traditional defence (defensive and offensive) with “defensive defence” (structural incapacity to attack); and, in correlation with that, trying to base the security of every country on the pursuit of others’ security while providing for one’s own (mutual security). What we can see in this type of detente is the dawn, as yet but faintly outlined, of the greatest revolution of human history (and as such capable of fulfilling and unifying all previous revolutions): peace based on the rule of law and on the equality of all peoples and all human beings.
To see this far we have to start from the following, observation: while being clearly distinct one from the other, these two forms of détente are not mutually exclusive. In fact, until the advent of world government there must of necessity be a kind of mixture — based on partially common objectives — between these two ways of conceiving and achieving détente. The reason is obvious. As long as national armies exist —and thus security is also based on the national use of force — innovative détente can achieve its first results if, and only if, traditional détente is successful at the same time. On the basis of reasonable equilibrium therefore there will emerge the possibility of agreement on intermediate questions which serve the proponents of both tendencies.
However it must be pointed out that the development of innovative détente also requires other presuppositions. With rules so hard to apply (defensive defence and mutual security) this form of détente can only be embraced with sufficient strength, and gain acceptance with governments, if and only if: a) international politics favours the economic, social and cultural growth of all peoples on the earth in increasing measure, making it increasingly difficult for ruling classes intent on the unscrupulous use of force in domestic and foreign policy to gain power; and if: b) this politics comes to be seen, as it develops, by growing masses of individuals, as an irreversible process of overcoming power politics, and thus also as a step towards its definitive order: the political and institutional unity of the human race. Otherwise, the world could not remain balanced between security by strength and security by mutual trust, and could not advance towards the one objective which can for ever eliminate the use of force from international relations: a World federation.
If, as it is necessary if economic unity is really to be achieved and maintained, Europe in 1992 becomes a political entity capable of taking action, then the first phase of innovative détente, which already has a solid basis in the Soviet Union and a good start in the United States, could really take place and prove its validity. In this connection there are three valid observations to be made. The first is that for the moment the web of innovative détente can be woven above all in Europe, where it is a question of gradually overcoming blocks, transforming armies into purely defensive armies and establishing the first rules of mutual security.
The second observation is equally realistic, since it is based on the very raison d’état of an established Europe, for which the passage from the current political and military situation to a system of mutual security with purely defensive armies reduced to the minimum would bring the following advantages: a) the disappearance of nuclear arms from its territory, the end of the dangers and damage caused by the mutual distrust between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries and the release of vast resources, which could be used for more worthy causes; b) the possibility of developing a profound economic and political understanding with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, thus smoothing their path to democratization; and c) the possibility of developing interdependence between the two Europes, and between Europe, the Soviet Union, Africa and the Arab countries, with plans for collaboration and aid which could open up a market of incalculable potential for real, ecologically controlled progress. The third observation concerns the fact that, in a federation of free nations in the same historical framework where the modern idea of the nation was formed, Europe would transform political thinking by adding the concept of international democracy to that of national democracy and making the idea of its extension to the whole family of mankind conceivable.
This does not mean that Europe would exercise some kind of primacy or leadership. If innovative détente develops, then one by one all the knots in the process of the unification of the human race will be combed out, and each country will in turn play a strategically decisive role, until the moment when all peoples on the earth have reached, with perpetual peace in equality, the order of reason which found its highest expression in the political thinking of Kant.

*This text was presented by Mario Albertini at the 14th National Congress of the Movimento Federalista Europeo in Rome on March 3-5, 1989.



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