political revue


Year XXXIV, 1992, Number 2 - Page 122



The decision taken at Maastricht to set precise deadlines for the creation of economic and monetary Union is the outcome of a long process involving compromises, statements of intentions, proposal-making, and political struggle. This process has been led by all those forces that, confronted with the evolution of the mode of production and international relations, have been obliged to tackle the issue of European unification. Each of these forces – governments, Community institutions, political and social forces, the federalist avant-garde –has had a different role to play, and each one has fulfilled it according to its own rationale.
The process that has culminated in the executive decision to transfer monetary sovereignty has lasted more than twenty years, and it would seem useful to go over once again the main points of Mario Albertini’s theoretical study – and resultant plans for action – that appeared in this review exactly twenty years ago.[1] Such an examination allows us, on the one hand, to assess the accuracy of predictions made at that time; and, on the other, provides us with strategic information for continuing the struggle towards our goal: a European Federation.
In his article, Albertini wrote: “ ...A European monetary union cannot be planned for, without planning for the creation of a European federal state.”[2] [...] “In formal terms, the political aspect of the problem is simple. Monetary unification is a technical problem which can be solved by creating a European state; and which, by definition, a European federal state would undoubtedly solve. The problem of the foundation of this state is also simple. Elections within a democratic framework are held in order to form a government. To form a state, a constituent assembly must be summoned. But the issue becomes confused when the expression ‘political union’ is used instead of ‘federal state’; and when with regards to the foundation process, instead of expressions such as ‘constituent assembly’ and ‘struggle to convene it’, people use an expression that tries to name the impossible – the gradual transformation of a group of states into a new state, even if it be a federal one.
The initiated can even give the impression they understand this phenomenon. Public opinion, which simply cannot work it out, remains inert. It cannot be blamed for doing so. Such talk focuses on requirements, not on solutions; no alternatives are proposed, everything is left to the will of God. And it is curious that on this basis, which in conceptual terms is ‘bad infinity’ ... some dismiss as the ‘doctrinarism of European mystics’ what is in fact the realism of people who call a spade a spade.
It is necessary, therefore, as a start, to maintain the formal aspects of the problem against the reticence of politicians and the sophistry of the ruling class. And it does not matter if these formal aspects are simple common sense, or even touch on being banal. That is the nature of the problem. That is the starting point from which to tackle it. Of course, it should be taken into account that nobody acknowledges this need when facing action. And it is precisely for this reason that a commitment to monetary union acquires political importance. It seems to me that the decisive point is this: it is necessary to accept, and support (against all logic), the gradual introduction of a monetary unification which precedes, and does not follow on from, the creation of a European political power, since the key players in the process do not behave rationally as regards the development of such a monetary union (the initiative ... is not their business).
Obviously this is an expedient. But some expedients are useful. It is possible that there exist expedients which can lead the political forces to an inclined plane. And it is with expedients of this kind that an attempt should be made to solve the informal aspect of the creation of a European power. If one manages to commit a person to something (monetary union) which implies a presupposition (political power), it may be the case that such a person, in spite of himself, ends up by having to create the latter. This hypothesis should therefore be taken into consideration. In practice, it is a matter of ascertaining: a) whether the historical situation offers the possibility of creating a European federal state; b) whether the political situation offers any possibilities for pushing the ruling class towards an inclined plane from individual nations to a united Europe also in the political and institutional spheres.
[...] Monetary union is one possible route to the inclined plane from individual nations to a united Europe. In order to assess its effectiveness from this point of view, it should be remembered that monetary union is an option imposed by the degree to which economic integration has developed. Integration has now reached such a stage that the results achieved so far can neither be consolidated, nor built upon, without tackling the monetary issue. It is essentially a choice imposed by reality and not an avoidable issue, unless the situation changes ...
In actual fact the situation is much more complex. The extent of European integration confronts the governments not only with the monetary issue, but with other economic problems as well – and ultimately with the problem of unifying economic policies (without taking into consideration the political problems that are linked, directly or indirectly, to this economic development). But, because of the limitations imposed by the still-intact sovereignty of the states (in other words, the fact that the public will is still formed within the confines of the national framework), what can be achieved in this area (if the circumstances are favourable) will not be characteristic of a new reality, a European reality, but simply of a greater or lesser amount of international collaboration.
In the monetary sphere, however, great progress of an institutional, tangible, European nature, can be made...”[3]
If this is a theoretical and strategic study, then, the problem to be faced is the role of the forces and subjects that are acting in the field, which, on one hand, are driven to act because a realistic appraisal of the situation demands it, and which, on the other hand, possess the will to act, considering that in this “arrangement” factors connected both to will (value judgements, personal interest, etc.) and to conditioning (that derive from the role these forces normally play) are involved.
“If it is a matter of renouncing national sovereignty, the habitual action of the political class, in other words the national leaderships, cannot be counted on ... [They are aware of the historic choice Europe faces, but for this same political class] nothing seems more unattainable or more impractical than the means of creating a European state, the European constituent assembly. This blindness does not simply depend on forms of moral and intellectual irresponsibility ... but also, and above all, ... on the contradiction between the nature of the decision to summon the European constituent assembly and the structure of the normal process of political decision-making ...
The decision to summon a European constituent assembly can clearly only be made at an international level – in other words within a framework where a public will has not yet been formed, but where only a compromise between the expressions at the summit of various public wills currently exists. Juridically, it is a feasible decision, provided that the will to take it exists in a sufficient number of countries simultaneously. But in normal politics, and even in revolutionary politics (when it aims at conquering power in the state), it is not only difficult, but even theoretically impossible, to reach a situation of this kind.
Decisions depend on power; power on the clash between forces; the clash between forces on the context of the struggle. Hence, as regards the decision to summon a constituent assembly within the scope of several countries (different contexts of struggle), it follows that: a) the forces concerned would have no chance (except by freak accident) of achieving a simultaneous majority for the constituent assembly; b) indeed, they would not even be able to start to fight for this majority, because the various forces cannot be divided up to propose a non-decision (a single state cannot summon the European constituent assembly); c) in any case, normal power (which is acquired, lost or retained only within the context of struggle, i.e. the state) and the decision to summon a constituent assembly in different countries (which corresponds to specifically changing the context of the struggle) are incompatible, because normal power is gained only by mobilizing the historical and social opportunities for survival (whatever they be) within the framework of struggle, and not by the opposite.
Herein lies the difficulty which needs to be overcome in order to create a European Federation. States can descend to any level of cowardice or folly, but they cannot be superseded by normal politics, which, by definition, is but the administration or transformation of the state ... [Therefore,] the normal actions of politicians cannot be relied on to initiate any decisive action. However, there remains a possibility. It is feasible to rely on the action of an accidental European leadership, if, in the inclined plane towards a united Europe, there exists a slippery spot that will lead towards a situation which may be defined as a ‘creeping constituent power’”.[4]
But accidental leadership can be activated only if the circumstances, and the political will of forces uncompromised by power, are capable of highlighting or identifying a situation which makes possible, as Monnet wrote, “concrete and resolute action, on a limited but decisive point, which brings about a fundamental change in this point, and gradually modifies the very characteristics of all the issues.”[5]
This accidental leadership revealed itself at the time of debate about the EDC, when the Italian position, and in particular that of De Gasperi (which coincided with that of the European Federalist Movement), tried to establish a democratic European Community (through the creation of a representative Assembly) with a European army. The battle for the EDC was lost, but the thinking and actions of federalists have continued to move in the direction set out by Monnet.
At the Hague summit of December 1969, the governments acknowledged the necessity of monetary union. On the basis of this, Albertini wrote: “ ... The governments are committed to monetary union. We know it jeopardizes national sovereignty, but we also know that it does not commit the national leaderships to properly overcoming it. However, with the national leaderships committed on this front, and with favourable circumstances, an accidental European leadership is acting on a ‘limited point’ which should be decisive, since it concerns the very source of the formation of a democratic political will.
This point is the direct unilateral election of the delegates to the European Parliament. For a few years now the most serious pro-Europeans and the most responsible federalists have been fighting for this objective ...
A European election will serve to create a public will within the European framework – a situation, whether intended to be so or not, that is virtually constitutional.”[6]
During the early ‘70s, therefore, the federalists’ strategy concentrated on this “decisive point” and met with success. The European Parliament, elected directly by the citizens of Europe, has become, on the one hand, a symbol of the contradiction which Europe is still struggling with – it is the only democratic organ of the Community, yet it remains excluded (despite a little progress at Maastricht) from the process of forming a political will. While, on the other hand, the Parliament possesses the potential to assume the constituent role, which only citizens, or their democratically elected representatives, can fulfil.
Clearly, by achieving this goal a battle, rather than a war, was won. But every step forward changes the parameters of the “European question” and in any case enables further appropriate action to be identified.
We should now ask ourselves whether the arguments re-examined above provide us with any theoretical and strategic guidelines with which to plan our activity in the novel post-Maastricht situation.
In doing so, we cannot avoid taking into account that while in the past it was possible to accept slow progress towards the ultimate objective within the context of a relatively stable international framework, the process of European unification is nowadays shaped and threatened by an unstable situation which involves the time factor. The historical crisis of the national state is being demonstrated by increasingly serious and widespread disintegration, racism and xenophobia, while at the same time the Community has to face problems connected to its widening which is confronting Europe with a stark choice between the reinforcement of current institutions and dilution into a vast free-trade area. All this requires an acceleration in the process of European unification and for there to be no delays to the creation of a European Federation which is able to assume its due responsibilities.
By taking this situation into account, certain factors can be examined, understood and interpreted on the basis of Albertini’s above-quoted analytical study. It becomes possible to identify the forces involved, the role they have played, and the role they still need to play – as well as identifying a possible strategy for the federalists.
The facts are the decisions taken at Maastricht, and above all the deadlines specified in the Treaty with regard to economic and monetary Union. If the final obstacle of ratification is overcome, the states will have made the most advanced decision that, from their point of view, they could have made at this stage – the states tend to limit rather than encourage the transfer of sovereignty. However, by transferring part of their sovereignty in the monetary sphere, they have opened the way for necessary and more advanced decisions, and have set up that “inclined plane” that will confront the forces in the field with the political problem of creating a European federal power.
The French example is instructive: the decisions taken at Maastricht pose the French with the problem of revising their Constitution, since it only foresees the possibility of a limitation of sovereignty (according to which powers transferred to a European body are exercised through unanimous decisions). Instead, the Constitution will have to accept the principle of the transfer of sovereignty (according to which the same powers will be exercised under majority voting). The importance of the debate which has begun in France about this problem relates to the fact that it highlights the crucial aspect of the federalist alternative, and that over this point a political struggle will break out. Battle-lines will be drawn up, political power balances will alter, and political forces will challenge each other no longer in the field of internal politics, but within a European context The relevance of this phase of constitutional revision becomes even greater when considered that it has opened up a debate on federalism that has even created the possibility that France will accept a transfer of sovereignty while the formation of a “nation of nations” (in other words a federal state) is still in progress. Such a debate will undoubtedly serve to influence the other European states as well.
Within the logic of the inclined plane, is it possible today to identify an accidental leadership that is willing to take on the responsibility of an advance towards the final objective? In fact, it seemed that Mitterrand might take on the task when, in a speech given to the European Parliament on May 24th 1985 (therefore before Maastricht), he proclaimed the need for the Parliament itself to play a constituent role. But this was not followed by any concrete action in that direction (unlike what occurred with Italy’s 1989 referendum).
What we may reasonably hope for today is that an accidental European leadership will emerge from the reinforcement of the converging interests of France and Germany within a European context that has changed since the re-unification of Germany and the disintegration in the East. In fact, only by anchoring Germany to Europe will it be possible to stop the potential return of German nationalism and Germany hegemony in Europe, which could come about through either the D-mark or the establishment of privileged relations with certain areas of Eastern Europe. It is clearly in the interests of all European states that this does not happen. But it is above all in the interests of France, which has always considered the German state a potential opponent, and of Germany itself, which is afraid of having to take on European and world responsibilities that it would be unable to cope with (the fact that Kohl has always forcefully identified himself with the policy objective of European construction is proof of this).
But accidental leadership is only one of the elements involved, and it cannot be expected to initiate decisive independent projects, for the reasons highlighted by Albertini. When such leadership has appeared, it has acted on a strategic point that was previously proposed by the federalists through their analyses and actions. And even in the present situation the federalists’ role is essential: their logic, the constituent rationale, will win through. It is based on an extremely realistic analysis of the process underway: currency, economics and government are three inseparable aspects of this process and cannot but have as their outcome a state founded on a democratic constitution – in other words a constitution drawn up by the representatives of the people.
In the wake of Maastricht and the upheavals following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the strategic goal of our struggle must therefore be the same as the final objective – the attribution of the constituent mandate to the European Parliament. Intermediate stages can no longer be entertained, because as far as the transfer of sovereignty in the monetary sphere is concerned, the issue of establishing a new state has by now definitely taken hold; and because the danger of increasingly widespread disorder requires Europe to become an active participant in international politics by establishing democratic instruments of government.
If it remains the task of the governments to take the executive decision to attribute the constituent mandate to the European Parliament, it is clearly important for political subjects (institutional or otherwise) that can influence such a decision to become involved: namely, the European Parliament, in the vanguard, which must claim the constituent role; the national parliaments; the Commission (whose President, Jacques Delors, despite being a prisoner of the intergovernmental point of view, has already moved in the right direction when he asked for the 1996 Conference, that will deal with the institutional reforms needed to enable Europe to cope with enlargement, to be brought forward); and finally the political parties and social forces, through creating pan-European platforms and running electoral campaigns for the 1994 European elections that focus on constituent themes.
All the same, the federalists are set to play a vital role. They have always had the task of stressing the alternative to the crisis of the national state, and to the crisis of a framework of power which is no longer able to cope with the modern forms of social living that have been brought on by the evolution of the mode of production and international relations. But they have never limited themselves to supporting an ideal, to a simple reliance on a gradual and inevitable independent evolution towards the realization of this ideal, nor to merely making suggestions to those who currently exercise power in the hope that they will be listened to. Rather, the federalists have always taken the initiative and searched for strategies which, beginning from a particular situation, have enabled the largest possible number of forces to be engaged in the struggle for a European Federation.
In the different stages of this struggle, radical demands linked to moves to claim the final objective immediately have been alternated with actions aimed at achieving more limited objectives – but ones that are decisive if any further progress is to be made. The realism of revolutionaries consists in this ability to alternate strategies according to the historical and political moment, while keeping the final objective clearly in sight. Federalists must not be afraid of periods of obscure work in the political background; they must not favour appearances over reality; they must have the infinite patience and perseverance of those who seek to replace the old order with a new one.
Nicoletta Mosconi

[1]Mario Albertini, “Le problème monétaire et le problème politique européen,” in Le Fédéraliste, XIV (1972), pp. 77-108.
[2]Op. cit., p. 91.
[3]Op. cit., pp. 92 f.
[4]Op. cit., pp. 101 f.
[5]Op. cit., p. 105.
[6]Op. cit., pp. 106 f.




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