political revue


Year XXXI, 1989, Number 2, Page 133



When talking about politics, it is never quite clear what one is thinking about because people usually talk mostly about the ends and very little about the means. For this reason, politics can easily become a war of words behind which anything could lie. In the modern fields of human life, the stress always lies on the means, in other words on the techniques with which results can be obtained. We live in a modern world because human activity can formulate scientific ideas, create the corresponding techniques, and group men to employ them. In politics the human condition is not different. But this situation is hidden by ideologies, which are a vulgar type of philosophy applied to politics. The result is precisely that only the ends are discussed, never the means. These never-discussed means seem therefore to be “natural,” almost eternal things, that men could only accept and not change. In actual fact our political means (state-nations, parties, trade unions) are very recent in history. Two hundred years ago there were neither parties nor trade unions, and the states themselves were very different. Wieland, in the 18th century, thought that the Germans more than any other people were “protected against political subjection and servitude” because they could choose between various states. Even where there were “nation” states there was no national loyalty: an Italian could be a French minister, Voltaire could advise the King of Prussia, more or less as nowadays an engineer can choose to work for one company or another without betraying anyone.
Instead in our time the state is deified. In actual fact, we can argue whether Liberalism or Socialism is better, whether we want to create a national government in one way or another, but we cannot argue whether or not we want to remain politically and juridically French, Italians, Germans. And yet some centuries ago there were no nation-states, just as there will be none in a century’s time because the development of technology continuously widens the space of the organization of human relations. This means that within a century our present juridical and political condition of French, Italians and Germans will be obsolete. However, when we reach this point, our thought stops. Being Italian no longer means belonging to a certain transient organization of human relations, but it becomes a matter of nature, an eternal and indisputable condition. In this way we do not reflect on men’s way of organizing themselves, and a certain stage of this organization is accepted as final; men are caught up in an absurd preservation mechanism which obliges them to serve their organization, the state, and prevents them from making use of it.
What actually is a state, a nation? Bad romantic philosophy would answer that it is the revelation of God in history. With a few variations, sometimes replacing God with a surrogate entity, such as history with a capital “H”, Mazzini, Herder, Michelet and all the representatives of the so-called national thinking have constantly reiterated this nonsense. Modern thinking would reply that the state is a means for human groups to obtain certain social results. And what is a means? A means corresponds to a technique. In industry, agriculture and so on, a technique is above all material, physical, ranging from a hammer to a nuclear power station. However, there is also a technique (now in full-blown development) for grouping men to best employ these physical means. In politics, “technology” mostly consists of the way men group. Every political result is a group decision, whether this decision takes the shape of a law, the political line of a party or the leadership of a government. Every decision requires a grouping of men that is suitable to the decision to be made. From the rank and file to the top, from the town hall to the parliament and the government, all that is done in politics is the sum of the results of group decisions, each corresponding to certain necessities. Politics flows through these channels: groups.
To solve the great political problems, there are groups we call parties. Each party has an ideology. But the ideology goes far beyond each party. If it were only a matter of ideologies (in other words if the parties were, according to the traditional definitions, merely associations of men with the same ideals), all the Liberals in the world would be united, and so on. The study of ideologies actually allows us to examine how the parties organize consensus but, on its own, does not allow us to appreciate the nature of their action, which lies, more than in the ideologies, in the way individuals are grouped.
There is a convincing example: the Marxist parties. Nowadays they differ as to their doctrine. But from a historical point of view their diversity goes back to a time when all of them followed the same dogmatic and naive Marxist thought, yet they were different. What had made them different was the different way of grouping, of organizing themselves. The Socialist party was based on the section, the Communist party on the cell. In the first case, activists and sympathisers, by taking part in the meetings, could discuss party, government and municipality policy. In the second case a few ignorant workers, grouping in their own working place, could compare their life with that of their boss without realizing the complexity of social relations. For this reason the Socialist party directed the psychological attitudes of its members towards parliamentary politics, while the Communist party directed its members towards an overall vision of life and a totalitarian conception of politics. Sections and cells represented two different human environments and recruited different men; the first represented a channel of specialized, democratic political action, the second a generic, totalitarian political action. This example has been schematically described to show that every kind of politics requires a suitable way of organizing and grouping. However, in general, all parties have in common that they are organizations suitable for making decisions in connection with state government. Therefore the parties group the divergent interests existing within a state. Finally, a state is a group in which there are both common and divergent interests. These interests become politics insofar as they become widely spread and turn into expectations. Parties are strong, and endure in the government or the opposition only if they can organize these expectations, those concerning the conduct of the national government. If they do not succeed in doing this, they become weak and disappear, whatever ideology they follow.
Since they group national expectations, and since they can only produce national decisions through the parliaments and governments of the states, the parties cannot produce any European results beyond the field of foreign policy and co-operation between states (whenever this is possible). They keep up a permanent confrontation between the various national standpoints; they do not create a European standpoint. This explains the European void, the absence of a truly European standpoint. The European standpoint, which is now virtually very widespread among public opinion, remains weak, ambiguous, lifeless, because there is no visible European group able to turn into demands, by organizing them, the pro-European interests and feelings created day by day by the weakness of our states with respect to Russia and America, and by the very evolution of modern life.
To make Europe is not to rule the existing states. For this reason the groups suitable for governing states are not suitable for making Europe. Making Europe is an all-party task. It is impossible to make the Europe of the Liberals, Socialists or of the Christian-Democrats: it is necessary to make everybody’s Europe, the Europe of unity and diversity. The differences, the parties on European scale, will govern it. But to set it up, to carry out the federal constitutional compromise, they must all be present. Striving for European unity therefore involves groups which differ from parties. To this end, a single group must be created which is able to channel European interests; and to do it in such a way that there are no organizational structures left at the national level, because at that level national expectations and ideas would fatally reappear, and leaders would be chosen who are European in their words but are in actual fact devoted to the national point of view.
The problem of European unity has been discussed for a long time, but not enough consideration has been given to the factors which divide it. We are well aware of the means that would unite it: the federation. Even outside our circles, the means to unite Europe have been discussed, although the discussion has given false results and has created the idea that Europe could be united through a confederal system of sovereign states, or through functionalism (a sufficient number of international organizations, each dedicated to a specific sector). But neither in the federalist circles nor outside them has a serious discussion been made on what divides Europe. And one cannot have a clear idea of the unity of Europe, whether one rightly thinks of it as a federation or erroneously as a confederation, until one has a clear idea of what divides it, because what divides it is the obstacle which must be overcome to unite it.
Many Europeans have heard Americans say: “Why don’t you unite? Division has cost you an enormous price in human lives and in the destruction of wealth, while unity would give you enormous political and economic advantages, and the possibility of resuming an important role in the world. It is easy to unite. All you have to do is set up a federation, like we did.” Nine times out of ten the European replies: “You can’t understand. You haven’t got a long past behind you, history. We have, and this is what divides us.” It remains to be seen if this is a reasonable reply.
To find it out, one must point out to that European that it is enough to go outside Europe, to Africa, Asia or America, to feel a European. In this case a Frenchman, a German or any other European are perfectly aware that they have many things in common with one another and that these common things distinguish them as Europeans as opposed to Americans, Asians, and so on. This feeling of having things in common in this case becomes much stronger than the difference between a Frenchman and a German, which is so strongly felt in Paris or Berlin.
What is it based on, what is this feeling of something in common? It is based on history, and it is our civilization. In reality, history unites us, it does not divide us. No man in Europe would be what he is if there were only the history of France, Germany, Italy behind him. When he prays, he prays to the same God, even though the cult is not the same everywhere (but it is not so even within the single nations); when he works, he uses legislative, technical, scientific means which are quite similar, because no nation has created its own, but all nations have contributed to creating them. The European man’s philosophical culture cannot be complete unless he adds Kant to Descartes, his musical culture cannot be complete unless he adds Vivaldi to Beethoven, his artistic culture cannot be thorough unless he adds Leonardo to Cezanne, and so on.
Everything that concerns human life in its basic elements unites the Europeans even more deeply than custom unites Americans, Indians or Russians. In the United States of America there are more serious moral differences between the still racist South and the North than in Europe. To get an idea of the strength of this unity of the Europeans, it is enough to think of the fact that for over a hundred years states have tried desperately to give us the idea that we are different and have failed. Europeans have fought terrible wars with each other, and time after time some of them have thought they were absolute enemies of others (the French of the English and then of the Germans, and similarly the others) but this opinion has changed every time politics has changed. Alliances have been permanently reversed and agreements have always been recomposed, even after Hitler and Mussolini.
What, then, divides this Europe united by custom, law, religion, culture, science, technology? Only and exclusively the nation-states. In Europe there is really no other element of human conduct in which the differences are so serious as to cause a division. Not even languages, which do not prevent Swiss or Belgian unity. The only division is that of the state. Subject to separate states, the Europeans attend national schools, pay national taxes, do their national military service, observe national rites, read national papers and organize their political, economic and trade union life on a national level. The by-product of these actions, channelled into the divergent currents of the national states, is precisely the idea that the dividing elements in Europe are more important than the uniting elements; such an idea would never have developed without the betrayal of scholars who have distorted culture and history by introducing the mythical concepts of national culture and national history.
This observation is of great political importance. If we know where the division lies, let us not waste time in uniting what is already united, like those who reduce the European problem to a simple matter of cultural, psychological, propagandistic approach among the different nationalities, and let us instead try to eliminate the division where it actually exists. Concerning this, it must be noted that it is not enough to say that it is the nation-states that divide Europe. States do not exist without the men who govern and sustain them. To say states is to say a political class (members of Parliament, members of the Executive and in general those in power). Essentially, Europe is divided by its political class, which maintains the sovereign states and therefore maintains the division; which has the power to unite it because it controls the production and enforcement of laws through parliaments and governments and does nothing on the pretext that it is difficult to unite “such different peoples”.
Nobody denies that there are difficulties, but the main obstacle is represented by the governments themselves. Actually, if the governments could decide, and did decide, to summon a constituent assembly, all the marginal difficulties, from Communism to established interests, would easily be overcome. This proves that only governments prevent Europeans from achieving their deep unity of civilization, in political terms too.
Federalism is not an ideology. It does not profess, like the old ideologies, to tell us what is the driving force of history by highlighting some mystical pseudo-entity such as the nation, the proletariat, freedom with a capital “F” and so on. Federalism simply points out a type of state, the federation; in other words it proposes a precise objective for human endeavour. An agreement can be reached on this because it is a matter of choosing something definite or not. On the contrary, in the case of the old ideologies, this is not possible. When men gather around Liberalism, Socialism, and so on, an argument starts at once over what Liberalism is, what Socialism is, and everyone has his own opinion, and no one knows what to do, because ideology confuses the end with the means, and tends to move the argument outside the historical field, in which precise tasks must be faced, problems must be solved and certain challenges must be met.
Federalism clearly shows the end to be reached, and says nothing about the means to achieve it. This remains a task to be understood in the present historical reality, by realizing the situation and finding the necessary political technique. In politics, technique consists of ways of grouping men. However, it is not enough, as the old concept of a political party would point out, to put together all those who have the same creed, in our case all those who verbally accept the objective of the United States of Europe. It is necessary to organize a struggle, in other words to understand which ideas, interests and aspirations can be considered European, and to make a type of group in which these interests are properly directed, not diverted onto a national level and re-routed towards false objectives such as the collaboration between sovereign states. Only then will interests, ideals, aspirations turn effectively into claims, that is, will enter the political balance against other claims.
In order to obtain this we have set up the European People’s Congress. Let us see what it means technically. Roughly speaking, in any political experience there are three ways of behaving and therefore three corresponding groups. First of all, there are some individuals who turn a certain political objective into a personal objective, the very aim of their life, even if they do not earn their living through politics. These are the leaders, the militants. These are the people who sustain the parties and similar formations. Secondly, there are individuals who, although their aims in life are non-political, take part in politics with a certain rational interest and contribute quite actively. These are the sympathisers, present in every party or pressure group although in a less active way than the first group. Lastly, there are individuals who are not very active, participate only when there are political elections, or act only on exceptional occasions.
From the point of view of the struggle to build Europe, once we have ascertained the existence of pro-European interests and ideals, it is a matter of creating an organization that can initiate these three ways of behaving, can link them and guide them towards the only European objective that cannot become a national objective: constituent power. Only in this way can the available political energy, which corresponds to human behaviour, be employed in the struggle to build Europe. The European People’s Congress is formulated in such a way as to technically allow both these three groups to come into existence and their unity of action to take place. To become aware of this, it is enough to consider that its organized foundations lie in primary elections, which entail: a) individuals to organize them, and provide them with political claims (claiming documents); b) individuals that support them with their prestige, their ideas, with money offers, by putting themselves on the candidate lists and so on; c) individuals that vote. This means more or less involving militants, sympathisers and ordinary citizens. Insofar as the election of the European People’s Congress is organized, the three types of political behaviour come into action.
This matter is worth discussing more deeply. One thing, however, is clear. Unless an action is organized which sets in motion the real behaviour of men, nothing can be accomplished. This is what happens when one merely gives a card to people who verbally say “yes” to Europe.
In this case the real political energies, that the nation-state permanently organizes according to the three levels of action, remain within the national sphere and are not transferred into the European scope. Europe then becomes purely an ideal, which never corresponds to what people really want, as states and parties continuously submit only national options, never European ones. In such a situation, the ordinary citizen, who constitutes the reserve of political energy to be mobilized in order to achieve political objectives, remains idle from the European point of view although ideally he wants a united Europe.
Every choice requires a struggle; and there is no struggle without a suitable organization, an actor keeping in sight on the political scene a kind of visible, measurable thermometer of the way the action is going. If Europe does not appear on the scene, then there is no Europe. The Europe of the day after, to be made when other things have been done, to be pursued when national problems have been solved, cannot be seen today and never will be seen, because there will always be national things to do, national tasks of foreign and economic policy to be achieved, so long as national sovereign states exist. The Europe of today is the European People’s Congress. Supporting it is a task for those who wish a future for Europe.
During the sessions held in Salice in 1957, Spinelli analyzed the reasons why the federalist movements which had formed in the postwar period in our countries had not yet become apolitical force. After remarking that each of these movements had so far given itself a national organization and had restricted itself to the task of counselling the national forces, he stated: “Third, federalists have not developed a core of militants among them. In this case I am not using the term in its current meaning of a small propaganda man who performs the small tasks of the organization. Militants are required by any organization aspiring to become a political force and are men driven by political passion, by the ambition to have a significant standing among their contemporaries, and who have decided to make this passion and this ambition coincide with the aims of the organization to which they belong. Not all those who belong to an organization are militants; if a political organization were formed exclusively by militants, it would soon become a sect. But militants, who have committed themselves fully and have staked their political future in the success of the operation, are the mainstay of any organization.”
For federalists, this is a decisive problem, since their possibility of fighting for Europe is conditioned by their ability to develop and form a growing number of militants. The European People’s Congress had been aware of this problem since its establishment, and resolved to deal with it firmly in its Turin session. The achievement of this task depends on the knowledge of its nature. Therefore it is necessary to discuss the manner of recruiting, selecting and training militants. Each of our groups must be able to conduct a policy for militants in order to extend and strengthen the European People’s Congress.
Militants are naturally trained during the fight, not in study circles. However, one is not born a militant, and one cannot be a good militant without a well-defined political character. Consequently, we must first of all have a clear concept of two issues: the recruiting of militants and their basic personality traits.
1) Basic traits of the militant’s personality. The European People’s Congress is the European tool of a European policy, whereas all the other instruments of action are national. This is why it can be organized and led only by people who are able to differentiate themselves from national politicians and want to acquire a European way of seeing things and a European way of acting. This is not an easy task. Everything we see, and everything which moves us to act and judge, is national: newspapers, parties, governments and even, to a large extent, political culture itself. This is the fact which explains the inability of our political classes to build Europe, which has been repeatedly demonstrated during the last decade. If we, too, want to avoid being caught in this situation, we must by all means avoid forming our political judgement, and our political behaviour, by choosing among the points of view and political options which develop within the scope of national politics. On the contrary, we must rely most of all on our own reasoning, and exercise it patiently in any situation to eradicate from our own subconscious the national reflexes which are concealed deep within our personality; we must nourish our political judgements with the European sources which we have available and which we will have to develop; and we must decide our political conduct on the basis of the needs and trends of the European People’s Congress, not on the basis of the needs and trends of the national states and their supporters, the national parties.
These are the basic remarks. Yet the various aspects of this behaviour, which we must develop ourselves and transmit to others to make them become militants, must be permanently discussed, studied and investigated to define the necessary political culture, the indispensable sources of information and the organizational work to be done in an increasingly effective manner and more fully.
2) Recruiting. Outside the European People’s Congress, there are no environments in which the desire to become militants for Europe forms spontaneously. National forces have long-rooted traditions which have infiltrated in schools, in families, in society and in organized groups. Therefore the national states and parties determine the political behaviour of most people and can automatically rely upon a normal renewal of the political class. The European People’s Congress has nothing of the sort. To recruit militants, it must conduct a specific policy and intervene in all those fields in which the political conscience and will is formed and changed, starting from youth circles, which are especially important since young people are not tied to states by personal interests in the same way as older people are.
In carrying out this intervention, one thing must be kept clearer in mind. The situation of our states and their recent history have led many men to consider the problem of European unity. Yet these people remain in practice militants or sympathisers of the nation-states, since the national point of view has been impressed upon them since childhood in the form of feelings and images and is constantly fostered by most of their present-day stimulations and incentives. This is why even when national awareness is subjected to the opposite thrust of the aspiration to European unity it remains predominant, until a long experience in an appropriate environment eradicates it from the subconscious. Our militant recruiting policy must therefore be able to constantly attract new people and let them be part of a deep-touching experience. Each of our groups must study and solve this problem.
We must delve into the issue of three kinds of behaviour, i.e. the action of militants, sympathisers and ordinary citizens. This entails the definition of a set of rules of thought and action. Such rules are naturally not the same for the three kinds of behaviour. The first thing we must notice in this regard is that the behaviour of sympathisers and of voters depends on the behaviour of the militants. From many points of view, the founding of a Committee of the European People’s Congress corresponds to the founding of the rules under which the secondary behaviour of the political struggle are to be grouped and moved into play. It is therefore the militants who must found the rules of action of sympathisers and voters. However, this science of the militant, this ability to group men along a certain path, would be useless if the militant failed to practise an art alongside this science. This art is the art of the pilot. The militants will form a group and set it on its course by applying the organizational rules of the EPC with meetings and elections. Yet they may enlarge the group along the way only if at every crossing they choose the right path and give those who follow them the idea that there is a direction in which progress can be achieved.
It is not easy to discuss an art. A pilot is a person who will become one, not a person who today has fame, authority and competence. In the current situation, successful men, even when they don the European mask, follow national paths. On Europe’s side are obscure people; they are those who have no current standing but will be needed in the future when all that will be left will be either our choice or fatal ruin.
How can we take the European path every day, in this Europe of national states? In every moment, we will face only national choices, since the system of parties, the leaders of great material and moral interests, and the public opinion are prisoners of the states, and the states are the instrument of national policy decisions. If we do not open a breach in the walls of this prison, all men will follow their senseless national path at every turning, without even seeing the way out. This is what is happening today in France and Germany. France cannot solve her colonial problem on her own. Yet when the Algerian crisis became acute, the leaders of democracy, oblivious of the Europe of which they talk about on Sundays, thought exclusively of national choices. National France was faced with the dilemma of the popular front, to relinquish Algeria, or of the military coup, to keep it. Having no national democratic choices, the heads of democracy, voted by socialist, radical and Christian voters, gave the country over to the enlightened dictator who thinks France is a fairy princess. But the marvellous France which De Gaulle promises to the French youth is indeed a fairy tale, good for nothing but going to sleep amid sweet dreams, not for preparing a future. Equally, Germany cannot solve the problem of defence on its own and at the same time protect its democracy against a strong German military power. But when the military problem became acute over the issue of missile launch pads, the heads of German democracy, equally forgetful of the Europe they talk about on Sundays, thought exclusively of national choices: either not to defend oneself or revive a strong military power.
In the tough times of choices, who will say these things to other men? This is the great problem of the militant. When the time of choice, the time of truth arrives, and the art of pilot must be practised, he must speak up. But he is alone. Everything which has the appearance of strength and importance is against him. Only other militants, obscure like him, are with him. Yet if the militants will have the courage to speak up, and if they will make a breach in the wall of the national prison, many men will follow them, since many men are waiting for Europe, and the group will constantly grow until one day one will no longer be able to summon the representatives of the cult of the past to solve a severe crisis; one will have to resort to the European People’s Congress.
Those who are alone may start by talking to another person. The only principle which one may suggest corresponds to what the groups of militants who are already properly controlling the field have done: form teams of friends. Every community of friends must seriously explore the world of politics, study its problems in depth, continuously discuss and improve the rules of action of the EPC, resorting to Popolo Europeo and to federalist literature. I know of groups who have held weekly study meetings in which every person enriched the others by talking about the things he had read and the problems he had faced. With amazing tenacity, these groups persisted even when the initially numerous group was reduced to three or four persons. These three or four persons, however, could hold their own adequately since they had reinforced their reasoning and their character and because they were the result of a harsh and patient selection. This is the rule of the militants’ group. Those groups who have followed this rule, after working in darkness, will rise one day from the shadows and will set many new sympathisers, and new European citizens, on the path towards Europe.
The militants have three main duties: to apply the rules of the EPC to group sympathisers and citizens on the basis of popular elections; to practice the art of the pilot to keep these persons on the European pathway; to acquire financial independence by means of a monthly self-subscription in order to rely exclusively on themselves in the current situation of national power. This is easy to say but difficult to do. At first glance there may seem to be an imbalance between these tasks and the means required to perform them: forming teams of friends with the rule of weekly discussion of political problems and situations. We must therefore explain the reasons for this statement.
First of all, the reader must imagine what can happen when a small group of men has firmly undertaken an experience of this kind for at least one year. From a bystander’s viewpoint, about thirty meetings will have been held, including twenty participants at the onset, if the enterprise has been launched competently, three or four persons after a few meetings, and about ten persons if those three or four will have held on tight, holding their meetings regularly when their feelings make them wish to abandon them. From the insider’s viewpoint, these three or four persons, as well as the others, will have changed deeply. In the beginning they were probably uncertain in judging the situations and problems of politics; they were forced to take their words from the mouths of opinion-making journalists and politicians. In the end, they will be thinking with their own mind, and will evaluate other people’s ideas, regardless of their source, according to their own judgement. Their character will also have changed: undoubtedly, these persons were initially unaware of being men capable of leading other men; in the end they will be aware of their role, since they will have tempered their soul by remaining alone on the field and will have acquired the stern character of those who can lead a difficult political struggle.
In other words, a European political class will have been born, and the organizational means for recruiting, maintaining and renewing it will have been founded. This political class, with the rules of its external action, will keep a European political force active in its city by means of the elections of the EPC. In order to understand the scope of the rule of militants, one should consider the fact, clearly pointed out by Duverger, that the way in which men group together decides their political way of thinking. Suppose men group together as in the sections of parties in assemblies where motions are voted and executives are elected. These men will share the experience of the political kitchen, while their deep political thinking will form in other environments. Assume instead men group together, as in the organization of militants we must create, in order to study and discuss. Together, these men will develop their deep political way of thinking within the federalist environment, and will learn to use it, expound it and to struggle.
This is why militants can be formed only if there is, within the EPC and at the EPC’s service, this special organization. It must act independently from the official meetings of the EPC’s local organizations, where we, too, will use a political kitchen to keep the external world tied to the European perspective, as this external world will keep moving towards the national perspective until has been established a European political power.
It may seen strange that in order to accomplish a political enterprise one must establish, within a struggle organization, a study organization with rules and structures more resemblant of schools of thought than political associations. Yet in all revolutionary enterprises something of this sort has always existed, since the toughest task of the revolutionary is indeed to use his reasoning appropriately to direct the struggle towards, a new aim in a world where habits, pre-cooked thoughts and clichés direct men towards old aims. Besides, if you want to find precedents close to us in time, think of the Fabian organization as compared to the Labour party, and consider the doctrinal passion of the Marxists who made the Russian Revolution.
After these statements, it is clear that militants can (and must, since nobody else can) practise the art of the pilot besides the science of politics. Some may object that forming three or four diehard militants and a small group of determined militants in a city is not much in comparison to the force of the parties. Yet actually behind every party, in every city, there is a small number of strong men. When the states are in difficult conditions and great changes are possible, the most important asset is to have good generals, good officers and a good political choice. If one has these things, the troops will appear at the right moment. If one does not have these assets, but there are troops, these troops will disband and be useless when the time of struggle comes. This happened to Italian and German democracy in the first postwar period; and this is what may happen to French democracy today and to the others tomorrow. Finally, in France the parties were on one side, with their numerous troops, and on the other side there was a single man. Yet that man had an iron will and a choice. This is why he won the conflict. True, he is weak with regard to the future; yet he is weak not because he is alone, but because he has a weak choice, a French choice in a world dominated by great continental states.
Drawing strength from their continental choice, militants should endeavour to establish their special organization at the service of the EPC. In the cities where a few persons expert in politics are on our side, so much the better. In those where there are none, proceed nonetheless. To begin with, there are those federalists who already have many years of experience and there are their written works, there is a federalist literature, there is the Popolo Europeo through which to keep to date and there is the possibility of learning within each one of us who wishes to. Making Europe, or not making it, depends on the number of these persons.
We said that one may roughly distinguish three political kinds of behaviour: the very active one of those who make politics the purpose of their lives, the behaviour of those who devote some action and some thought to politics but essentially do something else, and the behaviour of those who tend to dedicate neither action nor thought to politics but are attracted only by great political events, such as elections, crises and the like. We also said that the technique of political action consists in the way of grouping men. A way of grouping may naturally result in cards and statutes, or may not, depending on the nature of the relationships, but mostly consists of the kind of action and dialogue which really binds men. With these criteria we have examined the problem of militants: a) it is up to the militants to stir sympathisers and voters to action with the rules of the EPC; b) it is up to them to lead Europeans towards the goal by means of political choices; c) the typical action of their special way of grouping and therefore of their upkeep and recruiting consists in the common definition of a political way of thinking.
Having settled the issue of militants, we must examine the issue of sympathisers with the same criteria. We must first of all clearly determine among which men we may have sympathisers. Obviously, we now consider people who dedicate some action and thought to politics but essentially do something else. In view of their condition, these persons have a rough knowledge of politics and a good knowledge of that “something else”, which may be commerce, industry, schooling, journalism and so forth: all human activities. However, these people, who also think about politics, will have political ideas regardless of their jobs and will not restrict themselves to an exclusively corporate viewpoint in evaluating politics, i.e. they will not evaluate politics depending on its benefits to their category, but they will try also to assess it from the point of view of general interest, i.e. its benefit to all. This entails reference to certain values: freedom, justice, peace, and so on. However, because what they know well is what can be seen from the perspective of their real experience (their work) they will tend to evaluate politics from the same viewpoint: if they are producers, in terms of how politics causes expansion or stagnation of production; if they are workers, in terms of how it improves or worsens social justice; if they are men of culture, in terms of how it favours or impairs science and the establishment of certain values, and so forth.
This means that they will be most acquainted with the aspect of politics which may be termed “political problems”, and will be least aware of the one we may term “political line”. Political problems are those which politics must cope with: they lie along a vast scale, ranging from foreign policy (for example the liquidation of colonialism or East-West relations) to economic policy, organization of production and distribution in this or that field, to internal policy, bureaucracy, schooling, public order and so forth. For each of these problems there is either the direct interest of everyone or the interest of different groups. On the other hand, the political line is usually the government’s overall orientation, or the proposal of such an orientation on the part of an opposition party. This orientation naturally involves foreign, military, economic, social and other policies, and therefore affects the individuals and groups whose interests and ideals depend on the government’s action. But this orientation cannot be developed exclusively as a function of the best possible solution to the various problems within view, since this would be pointless unless it served to establish a majority, which entails compromise solutions, a minimum common denominator among many ideals and interests. Essentially, a political line consists of political problems plus the search for the best compromise, which will provide the majority without which the world’s best projects would remain on paper. This search for the best compromise is the specific task of politicians and requires a particular experience.
We may indeed exemplify it by mentioning a difference between the political line of the parties and ours. The political line of a party is the line which is suitable to provide an orientation for government or for opposition (which has the aim of becoming the government). Therefore its compromise requires: a) the search for 50 per cent plus one of the voters. Beyond that, the compromise would be too diluted and therefore weak. Below that, the compromise could never be or become a government; b) this majority must be available for a long period of time, during which the government affects the immediate interests of the groups and individuals, since to govern is to choose and therefore favour some and damage the rest. Instead, our political line, which is the one suitable to define the pathway for founding a new state, must provide a compromise which can: a) keep only a small minority active for a long time; b) unite, above the party divisions which are typical of governments (whether liberal, socialist or Christian), a sort of unity of almost all the population for a short period of time, the time of the Constituent and of its work, which does not affect the immediate interests of the population.
All the questions which arise in establishing a political line naturally affect directly only those who experience them fully (the militants), not those who do not (sympathisers and voters). Therefore sympathisers may accept and follow our constituent popular political line only to the extent to which the militants and the global action of the EPC will be able to relate it to the political problems which are or may be of interest directly to that category of persons. This observation shows the decisive importance of the protest and claim documents, which must present the European view of the great political problems. As we will see in the following article, the problem of sympathisers and that of protest and claim documents are directly linked, so much so that we can say that we have no serious action on our part with respect to sympathisers (i.e. the second kind of political behaviour) if there is no serious definition, presentation and political diffusion of the protest and claim documents.
The action which can allow us to group sympathisers is therefore founded on the development, diffusion and public discussion of the protest and claim documents. These “documents” deal with limited problems, and this is why they mean something to those who experience these problems in their own life. The “documents” show that the key to the solution is not national but European, and this is why they can tie the individuals they address to the struggle for Europe.
What kind of individuals are they? That vast group of persons which first of all seriously live their work and secondly are able to link the problems which arise in their scope to some political perspective. The persons of this kind are attracted by the political movements which proclaim the ideals of our political civilization and judge them on the basis of their ability to formulate and solve certain problems, those which they know personally. This is the degree of awareness which forms the ideas, sympathies and adhesions of the social circle which provides sympathisers to political movements. If we evaluate the situation from this point of view, we can observe the following:
1) If the EPC “produces” only the ideal call to European unity, it cannot seriously recruit sympathisers. To a certain extent, many political movements have added “Europe” as a fourth word to the three keywords of present-day political ideals: democracy, freedom and social justice. Yet the great ideals no longer divide the political class and sympathisers along the watershed of parties since they have become the common property of all the parties, and therefore the individuals judge, to the extent of their abilities, how the principles are translated into facts. The EPC must “produce” the correct formulation of individual political, economic and social problems; it must deny, with due reason, the national perspective; and illustrate the European perspective. In this manner it can seriously attract all those persons who are sensitive to the problems which can be solved only within such a perspective.
2) The national circle of parties, experts and journalists is not likely to formulate the individual problems according to the European perspective. These people owe their influence, or their power, to the nation-state within which they have acquired experience and have been successful. The following rule is true for such people: “The ideas and beliefs of the dominant groups seem to merge so closely with the interests of a given situation that any understanding of the facts which may threaten their power is ruled out”. (Mannheim) This rule explains why so many politicians and writers often write that the European states will die if they unite and then assign to these moribund such grandiose tasks as liquidating colonialism, ending the cold war, achieving wealth and social justice in the age of the atom and automation, and so forth. In any case, due to this fact, if the EPC does not “produce” European standpoints for the individual problems, the social circle of virtual sympathisers is faced exclusively with national solutions. Therefore, in this case, even where there are general propensities towards Europe, the individuals remain tied to exclusively national perspectives and parties, and the conventional Europeanist movements live the life of ghosts.
3) The relation between “documents” and sympathisers highlights the fundamental action which can provide militants with all sorts of contacts with the environment of the city in which they operate. This action therefore constitutes the essential premise in order to slowly but surely achieve financial possibilities, cultural influences, political prestige and in order to fill the void which still surrounds the struggle for Europe. The effectiveness of this action also regards our organizational issues, and shows: a) the importance of the cultural work of militants, which must produce European solutions to political problems; b) the importance of the meetings preliminary to the elections of the EPC, in which these solutions must be proposed to uniform and selected milieus.
This is why the “document”-sympathisers relation can energize all of our action: it can provide us with serious candidacies for the EPC lists; it can provide us with delegates to the Congress who are capable of truly representing the different needs of the European people; and can give our political debate the force and prestige required to conduct our struggle. Naturally, all this work must be founded on the moral and intellectual courage of militants, who must overcome the conformism in which our states have lapsed in order to show everyone the true face of Europe and the meaning it can have for everyone’s life. The face of Europe will be very different from the squalid facades of our old states. Our documents will be truly European to the extent to which they will be able to oppose tomorrow’s life to today’s, on a problem-by-problem basis, and say every time something new with respect to the stale words of current politics.
There is still the problem of the third degree of political behaviour (with respect to the EPC, the voter, the ordinary citizen). The individuals at issue are usually known as “the public opinion”, “the people” and so forth. Their political character becomes clear if one takes into account the fact that they usually have an extremely superficial interest for politics, which they take part in only when they are attracted by great events. The states and the parties usually extol them to the extent of raising them to true and exclusive protagonists. Democratic ideology claims that they, as citizens and voters, are the true holders of power, the overseers of the government (ministers and parliament members being merely their representatives). Socialist ideology claims that as a working class they are the only autonomous element not only of politics but indeed of history. National ideology (which organizes the consensus of the citizens for the current states, just as party ideologies organize the consensus of the social parts) claims that they are the “nation”, and therefore the substance and aim of politics, history, culture, morality and sometimes even of religion.
All this is of no use in understanding what these individuals do and think politically; yet such understanding is necessary to achieve their European grouping. Generally speaking, one knows only what one does. Accordingly, these individuals know politics superficially, since they do politics superficially, by rough approximations which ideologism (whether fascist, democratic, socialist or national) converts into the primitive myths which are currently ruling Europe. This regards their normal mental state. However, there is an aspect of politics in which despite this confused mental state these people are aware of what is happening and act positively. To identify this aspect, we must bear in mind that politics has: a) the level of definition of the political lines, which corresponds to the behaviour of the political class which is struggling to gain or keep power; b) the level of definition and solution of the political problems (which depends on the first level for its execution, since the execution of a political program is nothing but the by-product of the fight for power, according to Schumpeter’s incisive expression); c) the level of great choices, of basic alternatives, which corresponds to the behaviour of the ordinary citizen (which depends on the first and second levels since the ordinary citizen takes no part in the process of developing political lines and in the process of formulating the problems).
This does not entail a passive nature of the ordinary citizen. On the contrary, it entails his activity and his degree of political autonomy. When the problems are pointed out, and the great political choices have been formulated, the political class and the sympathisers leave the scene, so to speak, and the ordinary citizens take the stage. Their choice imposes itself. They are not active until the great choices enter the scene. In these long intervals, the ordinary citizen is passive, a subject, both in democratic regimes and in totalitarian ones. But when the great choices mature because one power is crumbling and another is forming, it is this mass of persons which decides; this mass cannot have power but can choose who will have it, and generally does not choose badly, since in these cases politics becomes very simple: either one or the other. When power is truly contended, few extremely visible forces remain on the scene.
This is the decisive datum as regards the third degree of political behaviour. In order to obtain action and participation from the ordinary citizens, we must be able to organize the autonomous aspect of their behaviour: i.e., they must be carried to the political field of great choices. Many believe that the masses can be won with simple propaganda, with slogans devoid of truth, with lies. In reality this never occurs. Truth distorting propaganda is effective only when the masses are already tied to a stable power (they are in a state of passivity), and this power (which is normally a state power) mobilizes the great apparatus of all its information media, starting from the school, to orientate its subjects towards certain aims and towards certain states of mind (the national idea, i.e. the fact that we feel French, Italian, German, depends on this, and has the same nature of a “lay religion” typical of communism and the like). But when changes must be achieved, and nobody has decisive power since the old one is crumbling and the new one is forming, this kind of propaganda cannot be made and is useless. In this case one must exploit the activity of the masses, not their passivity.
This is not achieved with generic propaganda, with lies or with brainwashing, but by means of the struggle for power which involves the spontaneous behaviour of the masses by making the choices evident. These are situations in which everyone wants to know what is happening and is able to understand, and in which everyone wants to participate in order to contribute to determining the choice. Making the choices evident is, in formal terms, still propaganda. But it has none of the traits of what we normally call propaganda. Its force depends on its truth.
Everyone wants to understand and take part, and knows how to do so; the consensus of the mass therefore organizes rapidly and spontaneously around those who know better and explain more truthfully the real data of the situation and of the alternatives for power, regardless of the use of strong systems of information media. In cases of this kind the slumbering mass, impervious to political argumentation, which it usually disdains, raising singers, film stars and athletes to the role of heroes, awakens. Thousands of channels for communicating ideas open spontaneously. Certain images, certain catchwords arrive everywhere, almost without or against the press, and form a mighty current of opinion which overcomes parties and ideas which had been considered absolutely stable until the day before (the last strong case is the Hungarian revolution; the last weak case is De Gaulle’s rise to power). The extreme example is given by the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks were very few in number and were practically powerless. But in its military defeat the traditional power was collapsing, and Lenin was able to coin the catchwords (the famous “Land and peace”) corresponding to the state of mind of the multitudes. Trotsky comments the success in these words: “The poverty of means of the Bolshevik agitation was evident. Then how, with such a weak apparatus, and with the insignificant amount of printed matter, were the ideas and catchwords of Bolshevism able to impose themselves to the people? The secret of the enigma is very simple: the catchwords which correspond to the acute need of a class and of an age create thousands of channels by themselves. The revolutionary environment, raised to incandescence, distinguishes itself for a high conductivity of ideas”.
This is the same as saying that propaganda, considered in itself as a set of conferences, manifestos, leaflets, is useless. The great masses acquire certain ideas, make them their own, and act consequently, only when the means typical of the third political behaviour become active. If the power is stable, the masses remain in their slumber, and no propaganda can alter their behaviour (only the state can excite them). If the power is unstable, those who have an alternative for power make direct contact with the masses even if they have an extremely weak information media apparatus. In reality, true political propaganda is merely an aspect of the struggle for power: it is the decisive aspect, since it relates to the behaviour of the multitudes and therefore to the accomplishment of the great power choices. Nobody reads, nobody listens, nobody feels if there is no incentive. The political incentive cannot be created by artificial means, since the masses are autonomous in this respect. The incentive forms spontaneously when the evolution of the power situation determines great choices. In such a moment, the only strong force is the one which has the possibility of gaining power and of formulating catchwords which correspond to the real state of mind of the masses, even if the day before such a force had been ignored.
The problem of harnessing the third behaviour for Europe is, for the reasons described above, a problem of action, not of generic propaganda. The ordinary citizen naturally could not be grouped at the European level unless there were: a) a European virtual state of mind (one cannot organize what is not there);b) the weakness of our states. However, these data do not, at present, constitute a strong incentive for the masses, since our states are weak but are not openly in a power crisis. The political environment is therefore national and slumbering (like the states). One may therefore create a European grouping only by creating a European environment opposed to the dominating but weak national environment. An “environment” is a situation in which the incentive to act and be informed appears spontaneously. Federalists have been able to provide it with primary elections and with open-air polling stations. This explains their success. Unknown to everyone, practically without means and with no influence, they have managed to interest tens of thousands of people in the cities where they conducted their first popular experiments.
The European vote is a rule of action which presents (in virtual form) the European choice. The open-air polling station constitutes an “environment” and therefore achieves a result which no propaganda can attain: the political interest of the population, without which propaganda talks to people who do not listen. The combination of these two elements constitutes a platform of action which must not be imposed on anyone but in which everyone can participate, and gives momentum to the process since everyone understands that his individual participation increases the importance of the fact. Those who find themselves in this environment witness the birth of a new political struggle and perceive the possibility of a European citizenship, though in a still confused manner.
The vote of the EPC does not create a parliamentary power, but counts more as a sort of protest, a claim to the European voting right. This is why it would be unlikely to produce a European “environment” if it were organized exclusively with indoor polling stations, i.e. with a procedure similar to that of national elections. In this case, the European election would risk being mistaken for an official European manifestation of the national parties and authorities, and would in any case require a preliminary information action which could only have a very limited scope in the current political situation. The open-air polling station instead provides information while offering participation; it is visible, and shows, with a living image, the real data of the European problem (the struggle of a European political class and the population’s European choice); it differentiates itself from all other current political manifestations; it creates countless impromptu propaganda people; it draws out of every one’s conscience things which everyone knows regarding the helplessness of national states and the need for European unity; it highlights new people, the men of the European People’s Congress. The third political behaviour is impervious to propaganda and sensitive to choices, and these elections are the only European choice currently possible.
Naturally it is not just a matter of organizing European elections just once, but a matter of repeating them within a general plan aimed at increasing the number of voters. We must therefore know what to do between these elections. In this period there may arise a temptation to maintain direct organizational political contact with the thousands of people who voted. This would be a waste of effort. The dominant power is national; accordingly, after voting, the European voters return to their national slumber. In the intermediate phase, using the first popular success and the first influences gained, we must aim at the types of political behaviour which remain active regardless of the existence of an “environment” and of the imminence of great choices. After the first election, we have a greater force of attraction on these elements, and this force can be exploited both to recruit new militants and to acquire new support, even a financial one,[1] if the target of the new elections is set immediately: a number x, much greater than the previous one, of voters (the aim is ensured by the increase in the number of militants and therefore of polling stations and by the possibility of organizing the elections within a greater and more complete scope).
The general political meaning of this long-term work plan is essentially as follows: it tends towards the hegemony on diffuse Europeanism. Today, Europeanism is a zero force politically, since due to the lack of a visible European interlocutor it is channelled into a thousand national rivulets which talk about Europe and is then spent. But this situation can be overturned with the primary elections, and political contact among the European leaderships of the EPC and diffuse Europeanism can be progressively established. In the same way in which someone who has liberal, socialist, trade union reactions immediately reports them to a given party or trade union, thus tomorrow someone who has European reactions will report them to the European People’s Congress and no longer to the “Europeanists” of the national parties. When this is done, Europeanism will be a political force. It will then be a matter of using this force appropriately and decisively when power crisis situations arise. In such situations choices become strong, the masses awaken from their usual slumber and acquire the power of choce. Then the EPC will be able to stage the decisive battle.
The analysis of the possibility of exploiting the third type of political behaviour is equivalent to the analysis of the possibilities of creating the United States of Europe, since great political changes occur when the people start to act. The objective data of the European popular action are present: our states are weak and their weakness creates the diffuse Europeanism which we can transform into a political force: our states will have severe power crises, as in the past, since they are helpless regarding their greatest political problems. The uncertain data regard human will. If a sufficient number of men organize Europeanism politically, and if these men do the right things in the crucial moment, Europe will be made. The crucial moment may be relatively easy to exploit if we face “Europeanist” governments which are willing to yield easily, for example to transform, under our pressure, the direct election of the Assembly of the European Communities (provided by the Treaty of Rome) into an election for an assembly with the mandate to develop European political power. But the decisive moment may also be difficult, if we face nationalistic governments turned vicious by their own cowardice; then we will have to resort to passive resistance and at the end even to a permanent presence in the streets. If the men suffice for the task, within a decade we will have the United States of Europe.

* This series of articles, written by Mario Albertini in 1957 as a contribution to the cadres’ training policy of the Movimento Federalista Europeo, was published in the second issue of volume one of Il Federalista, published in Italian (1959). We found it appropriate to reprint it after thirty years, because most of its content remains extraordinarily up-to-date, thus witnessing the continuity of federalist thinking from the foundation of the review. This remark is all the more significant, as these writings arose as a reflection on an action (the European People’s Congress) which had great importance in the history of European Federalism, yet is clearly dated and, seen with a three decades of hindsight, appears as enticed with maximalism, as typically happens, when beginning political struggles. It must also be noticed that these articles are interspersed with statements we could no longer support today, as it is the case with the assertion that federalism is not an ideology (though this term was used then in a meaning different from that we attribute to it now). All this detracts nothing from the present interest of the paper, which must not be read as a historical curiosity, but as a still valid theoretical statement about federalist action.
Notice that the Italian term “militante” has been translated with the English term “militant” in spite of the connotations, of which we are fully aware, it presents in English. The phrase “active member” seems to us to be too weak, and does, not suggest the exclusive character of the political commitment that, in our opinion, federalist “militants” must be called upon now. It goes without saying that the word has to be rigorously stripped of any fanatic or violent connotation.

[1] Financing can, and should, also be popular. Probably, the only possibility of remaining organizationally in contact with most of the voters is indeed the popular fundraising campaign for Europe. This is possible, since it has a moral, rather than political, nature; if achieved, it would considerably increase the political temperature of the struggle for Europe. A suitable means may be the “European money-box, which would be left in the voter’s home and would remind him and his visitors of the European commitment.




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