political revue

Year XLII, 2000, Number 2, Page 132



The Current Political Picture and Historical-social Significance of European Federalism.
In the years that have elapsed since the end of the Second World War, European society has witnessed the emergence — in forms which were, as long as the Cold War curbed the free expression of fermenting ideals, only virtual or limited in scope, and which, following the removal of that barrier, are now becoming more explicit and widespread enough to be considered almost general — of the desire to achieve modes of civil cohabitation and of the organisation of political power that, going further than the Russian and American models — these are based on forms of authoritarianism which, while ostensibly poles apart, both encroach upon the citizens’ development as persons — have the capacity to lead to the construction, on the basis of a political framework that is tailored to the requirements of men, of a freer and fairer society.
The expression of this general anti-authoritarian feeling, has been most marked in three sectors, and in relation to three of modern European society’s key problem areas: education, industrial relations and the environment, natural and urban.
In schools, it took the shape of a protest against the bureaucratic control exercised by the state and the conditioning by the production system which, seeing schools as instruments whose sole function was to produce citizens biddable in the face of power and readily integrated into society’s economic structure, forced, and continue to force, teachers to impart a rigid and specialised culture and to adopt authoritarian and repressive methods of teaching. The call, in reaction to all this, was for genuinely democratic schools, entirely free from bureaucratic constraints and frameworks, for schools which, through the introduction of a modern approach to teaching, based on free interlocution between teachers and pupils and the teaching of a living and contemporary culture, would support the development of a student’s individual personality, rather than strangling it arbitrarily.
In industry, it manifested itself as a backlash against outdated managerial methods which violate unjustifiably the dignity of workers as human beings, and saw the latter claiming both the right to take possession of a greater share of the product of the company and the right to be involved, as a class, in the planning of production on a national scale and, on an individual level, in the reaching of decisions regarding the organisation of labour within the factory and the running of the enterprise generally.
With regard to the natural and urban world, it emerged as a general acknowledgment, so widespread as to be unprecedented in the history of civilisation, of the urgent need for a carefully formulated environmental policy — a policy able to reconcile solutions to problems of economic development with the safeguarding of natural values and the protection, or restoration, of urban environments that allow the continued existence, or recreation, of a sense of community in human relations, thereby putting a stop to the current process that, through the anarchic spread of cities and the systematic destruction of the natural environment, is progressively dehumanising social relations and the lives of individuals. This acknowledgment took the form of a protest against the centralising of territorial policy decisions, which masks the speculative interests that play a leading role in the destruction of the natural and urban environment, and a claiming of the right of local communities to discuss and decide upon, independently and in a democratic fashion, the issues that concern them.
These widespread aspirations and anti-authoritarian struggles are now accompanied by a deep appreciation of the need to realise another value that is, indissolubly bound to the values that stir European society today: peace. Never before has there been such an acute awareness of the fact that humanity, while engaged in a great struggle to liberate the individual, and to win acknowledgment of personal dignity and responsibility, has equipped itself with means of destruction so powerful as to be capable of destroying in the shortest space of time, any achievement of civilisation. Means of destruction that render these very achievements both difficult and uncertain: threatening humanity with destruction, they mobilise vast energy resources, material and moral, and so doing channel them away from the great civil battles of our times.
The Emergence of New Values and the Need for a New Political Theory.
From a certain point of view, these instances of unrest and these claims and demands follow on from the values brought to the surface by the great political struggles of the nineteenth century, and as such must be interpreted as manifestations of the need to carry on with and complete the liberal, social and democratic revolutions. These revolutions, and the present anti-authoritarian and pacifist currents, are therefore part of a single line of development: that of man’s progressive taking control of his own destiny, and of the progressive humanisation of power and, in general, of relations among men. In fact, the needs that unsettle contemporary European society bring to the fore once more, in different forms, the great values that inspired the ideologies of the XIX century: freedom of the individual from the arbitrariness of power; greater involvement of the citizens in the reaching of decisions that concern them at all levels; and fairer distribution of wealth.
But the struggles currently in progress in Europe have, together, led to the emergence of possible new values. While the great ideologies of the XIX century had as their objective the liberation of social classes — first the bourgeoisie, and then the proletariat — the purpose of the current unrest — despite the class-based terminology that is often used by some of the groups that give voice to it, and which can be explained in the light of Marx’s observation that the claims of every historical movement tend to be expressed using the terminology of the one that immediately preceded it — is the liberation of the individual as such.
On the other hand, it is only today that the value of peace itself, which was nevertheless embraced by the liberal, democratic and socialist ideologies, finds itself placed at the top of the scale of values; only today that it is considered an end in itself, whereas in the great ideologies of the XIX century it occupied, a subordinate position, and its realisation was regarded a by-product of the creation of a liberal, democratic or socialist order respectively.
There is nothing arbitrary about this change in perspective (from the values that marked the great revolutions of the nineteenth century to those that now prevail in Europe), rather, it is the result of the evolution of the material means of production and of the productive forces.
The result of the evolution, over the XIX century, of the material means of production and of the productive forces has been the progressive integration of the social classes. This certainly does not mean that all the injustice that existed in the division of wealth in Europe has been eliminated, rather that, with the working class now having an average income that is sufficient to guarantee its members a dignified existence, the violent phase of the class war is over, and it has ceased to be a key problem in political life. Put another way, the nineteenth century did in fact bring liberation of the classes. This development, through the establishment of community-based social relations that had been unthinkable while class hatred still represented an insuperable barrier between the proletariat and bourgeoisie of individual states, cities and villages, created the material basis for the emergence of a new value to pursue: the liberation of the individual.
Moreover, the process that brought about this integration of the social classes was not solely a vertically-moving one; in the course of the XX century, it also began to spread outwards, in other words, to bring the integration of populations of different states. This new direction taken by the process, whose manifestation was particularly clear in Europe where the contradiction between the modern level of development of the material means of production and the nineteenth-century dimensions of the nation-states is so evident, has had two consequences which, while appearing contradictory, are in fact convergent. The better means of communication and the more effective weapons to which it gave rise rendered war a vastly more destructive event than in the past and, for the first time, made peace the indispensable condition for civil progress of any kind.
On the other hand, by bringing the peoples of different states into ever closer and more frequent contact with one another, it created, for the first time ever, the conditions in which the realisation of peace through the overcoming of national barriers could be envisaged.
However, Europe today, whose situation with regard to concrete aspects and values is outlined here, is still lacking a political theory that will provide the framework needed in order to understand this new reality that is contemporary European society, and in order to create institutions with the capacity to win the consensus of the citizens of Europe and to deliver a policy tailored to the new needs. This theory does not correspond to the liberal, socialist or democratic ones, whose function, irrespective of their ideological content, was to provide the framework for the interpretation of the social reality of the different phases of the XIX century. What is needed is a new theory which conserves all the non ideological elements of liberalism, democracy and socialism, while at the same time going beyond them to arrive at a vision which is right for the problems of today.
This theory is federalism. Viewed in its structural dimension as the theory of the federal state, federalism provides an institutional instrument which, on the one hand, is open (its scope not limited to a single traditional nation) and can even represent a political formula for a world government, and on the other, extremely segmental, and thus able to offer the greatest possible regional division of power and the greatest degree of self-government. The federal state is perhaps the only political formula which on the one hand allows, through the overcoming of national barriers, the current supranational course of history to be controlled in a democratic fashion, and makes it possible to imagine the achievement of perpetual peace through the creation of a democratic world government, and, on the other, guaranteeing local communities a broad measure of autonomy, allows the conditions to be created for the development of a truly community-oriented existence and thus for the liberation of the individual.
The Nation-State against Renewal.
No theory has yet been widely diffused that provides the framework for expressing the new concerns unsettling European society, a fact that can be blamed on the fact that the latter, coming up against a political obstacle and finding no positive outlet, are transformed into gestures of rebellion or into a sterile sense of unease. Our problem now is to understand the nature of this obstacle and to find the political solution to the state of crisis with which Europe, due to the deep contradiction that has been created between the de facto situation and the values shared by most of its citizens, is grappling.
This obstacle, as indicated previously, is the nation-state, and the overcoming of the nation-state constitutes the indispensable preliminary condition for the putting into practice of any progressive policy in Europe today.
The reasons why the nation-state now constitutes the factor blocking any progressive evolution of politics and society in Europe can be understood by bearing in mind two elements, one historical and the other present-day, which explain its incapacity to resolve the problems of our times.
The first element, passed down from previous historical times, is the centralisation of the state in continental Europe. The reasons behind this phenomenon cannot be examined here, but it is one which has, in the course of modern history, left a deep impression on the whole of the political and social life in these European countries. By creating an authoritarian and bureaucratic machine of state, far removed from the lives of the citizens and thus subject to no form of popular control, it frustrated, in part, the efforts of the protagonists of the liberal, democratic and socialist revolutions and is responsible for the authoritarianism which is still present in all sectors of contemporary society and against which, in schools, factories, and in natural and urban settings, students, workers and the most responsible sections of the population continue to fight.
On the other hand, despite now being weakened as we shall later see, and despite, as a result, leaving room for new aspirations towards decentralisation and the rebirth of minor nationalities, this kind of state does not allow these aspirations to take root, to achieve an effective political expression and thus to obtain concrete results. This is partly because it uses the ideology of the nation as an eternal and indivisible entity to justify its existence and partly because it has, through a centuries-old levelling action, systematically eliminated all local peculiarities, both linguistic and cultural, thereby preventing the rise of any political will to restore an effective degree of decentralisation within the existing states.
The second factor, which emerged with increasingly dramatic clarity in the course of the XX century, is represented by the fact, mentioned earlier, that economic relations and strategic problems, swept along on the wave of uninterrupted development of the material means of production, have assumed dimensions so great as to render increasingly insufficient the dimensions of the European states, political units which, while equal to the problems of nineteenth century societies, are entirely inadequate when faced with the problems of modern society. From leading protagonists they have been reduced to little more than pawns on the chessboard of world politics, and have managed to conserve their material prosperity only by relinquishing, in the ambit of the common market, a large share of their sovereignty on the economic front.
This is the only real reason for the crisis of the nation-state in western Europe, a crisis which everyone is talking about, but which few really understand. On its most general level, it can be perceived as a crisis of consensus, as a divorcing of the citizens from the state which is motivated by the fact, acutely if not altogether consciously registered by the citizens themselves, that the state is no longer a decision-making centre with the capacity, through its actions, to guarantee them their security and wellbeing, these having now come to depend on other decision-making centres: the US government and the international capitalism freely operating within the framework of the common market.
This crisis of consensus immediately becomes a crisis of the process of the formation of political will, in the sense that no political class can, without strong support from public opinion, establish stable and homogeneous majorities which have the capacity to carry forward bold polices, and also in the sense that, in a situation in which the political parties are increasingly in disrepute and lacking in members, the very selection of the political class becomes a defective process at the end of which the running of the state is entrusted to mediocre figures, devoid of political vision.
This explains why the governments of Europe, even when faced with the threat of utter disorder, have proven unable to summon up the energy and imagination needed to tackle the problems of schools, of the working world, and of the natural and urban environment and why, in the midst of their own confusion and impotence, they are allowing an increasingly untenable situation to fester.
In particular, it explains the impotence of the working class, condemned to a subordinate position by the national dimensions of their unions, which find themselves engaged in an unequal struggle with a capitalist class that, in its advanced sectors, operates on a European level.
Moreover, the impotence of Europe’s nation-states, whose closed and militaristic structure has, what is more, always rendered the equilibrium in Europe unstable, has created in Europe and in that section of the world that might naturally look to Europe for assistance, a power vacuum that has been a leading factor contributing to the deterioration of the world equilibrium: it obliged the two superpowers, employing vast military, financial and ideological resources, to extend their spheres of influence to parts of the world that would, on a purely geographical basis, naturally fall outside their range of action; and it had the effect of setting the two superpowers in direct opposition to one another, without a third influential protagonist on the international stage to act as a mediator of their conflicts. The impotence of Europe’s nation-states has thus had enormous negative significance also with regard to the maintenance of peace.
The above considerations show clearly that none of the ideals and aspirations currently alive in Europe can even start to be realised while European society continues to be organised on the basis of the historically superseded nation-state model, characterised as it is by centralisation and impotence; it is also clear that the only struggle that might offer these ideals and aspirations a positive outlet is that which targets the overcoming of the nation-state and the founding of the only form that can, today, be regarded as politically feasible: that of the European federation.
A European federation would eliminate the two factors, mentioned earlier, that make the nation-state the obstacle to European society’s evolution towards higher forms of civil cohabitation. First of all, it would, upon its foundation, cover an area that is highly diversified both culturally and linguistically: the terrain of the historically established European nations. As a result, the federal structure of the European state would not be an empty legal formula; on the contrary, the different social behaviours, deeply rooted in history, on which it would rest would bring to life and lend substance to the segmented legal structure of the federal state, and through the division of power that this would involve, ample room would be left for the realisation of the desire for self-government shared by various minor communities, territorial and functional.
And that is not all. A European federation, by securing a leading role on the international stage and thus the capacity to influence the international equilibrium and control an economy that has expanded to reach continental dimensions, would re-establish the cycle of trust between the citizens and the powers that be (completely destroyed by the nation-states) and would therefore be able to express a political will strengthened by the energy and imagination that is needed in order to solve the problems of our times.
It is only in the context of a European federation, therefore, that the creation of a democratic and pluralistic education system becomes a feasible prospect; only in the context of a European federation that the unions, undermined and thrown into difficulties by their national dimensions, which render them impotent in the face of an economy that now operates on a European level, would regain the strength they need in order to involve workers deeply in the planning of the economy, to ensure that they obtain a truly, and not merely nominally, greater share of the national product, and to affirm, through concrete measures, the right of workers to have a say in the decisions that relate to the organisation of labour and the running of the enterprise generally. It is only in the context of a European federation that local communities might acquire sufficient independence and power to participate actively, each within the sphere of its own territorial jurisdiction, in regional planning, asserting, above and beyond interests of short-term economic development, those relating to the safeguarding of community values and of the conditions that allow the individual to develop freely.
A European federation, finally, would make a vital contribution to the establishment of a more peaceful world equilibrium, its presence alone filling the power vacuum that renders the current world equilibrium tense and unstable; it would provide European citizens determined to strive for peace with an instrument capable of turning their aspirations into a policy, rather than into unproductive expressions of dissatisfaction, which, in the sphere of impotent nation-states, is all that they can be.
World Federation as the Final Objective.
Having appreciated the sheer extent of the social changes that will be rendered possible by the foundation of a European federation, it is extremely important to underline, to avoid any ideological mystification, that the foundation of a European federation will not mark the end of prehistory, the leap from the reign of necessity to the reign of freedom.
History shows that man’s domination of man has two main sources, which are closely interconnected: one is the social division of labour which necessitates the organisation of labour itself, and thus the establishment of relationships based on command and obedience, and the other is the international anarchy which produces both war and the need, in order to face war or even just to avoid it, to base the whole of the life of society on a network of authoritarian relationships, and which thus perpetuates the social division of labour even in sectors in which, theoretically, this could be overcome.
The stage now reached in the evolution of material production relations in the most industrialised part of the world is such that we are starting to glimpse the possibility that these two sources of oppression might one day be removed. On the one hand, the revolution in the mode of production represented by automation, which is already rapidly turning workers into technicians, opens up the prospect of the complete abolition of alienated labour. On the other, the spread of interdependence in human relations, which also depends on the evolution of the mode of production, is generating the historical tendency to create political units of increasingly vast dimensions, and makes it possible to envisage, even as a future prospect, the political unification of mankind in the framework of a world federation which, by eliminating once and for all the division of the world into sovereign states, will put an end to anarchy, and thus eliminate the very root cause of war.
From this perspective, it becomes possible to imagine an era in which the working day would, for everyone, be just three hours long; an era in which all the energies of men, set free by the disappearance (or the trend towards the disappearance) of alienated labour and by the eradication of violence from international relations, might be poured instead into the democratic government of the free communities in which they will live, and in particular into the management, to social ends, of the production activities that will evolve within them; an era in which private ownership of the material means of production might be abolished, but without the emergence of state capitalism and bureaucratic centralism; an era in which it will be possible to realise the model of the democratic school, as society will no longer be looking to schools to produce a workforce equipped to carry out predetermined functions, but instead, complete individuals.
Thus, in this society, human relations, currently based on dominion and exploitation, abstract and mechanical, determined by the objective requirements of the social division of labour and of the raison d’état, will be replaced by relations of a new kind, which today are best manifested within the family setting: relations in which, to use an expression of Brecht’s, men will be men for men, in which men will consider one another as ends and not as means. The basis of this society will not, therefore, be authoritarian organisation of factories, administration and the armed forces, but instead, the community — the social sphere in which these relations between men will manifest themselves in day-to-day life.
In this society, pluralism will become a living reality, because society itself will no longer be a gigantic machine in which men are mere cogs, obliged to sacrifice their human identity, their individuality, in order to play their part as elements in a single, impersonal plan; instead, it will be the sphere within which the infinitely diverse individual vocations of men, and their natural inclination to associate with one another to different ends, might be allowed full scope.
But, while the definitive liberation of mankind has today become, for the first time, a prospect that can be envisaged, it is, on the other hand, unthinkable that its realisation will coincide with the political unification of Europe. Indeed, neither of the two causes of oppression and exploitation that we referred to earlier will be eliminated upon the foundation of a European federation.
The latter will, as we have seen, produce an international equilibrium far more peaceable and progressive than the current one, but it will still be a sovereign state in a world of sovereign states and, as such, will not eliminate the root cause of war and international tension; and like it or not, it will inevitably adopt a policy of influence. It will allow important advances to be made in the nerve centres of today’s society: in schools, the working world and in natural and urban settings. But it is unthinkable that automation, still in its initial stages, might lead in a short space of time, and for as long as international relations continue to be characterised by anarchy, to the disappearance of the social division of labour; it is also impossible to imagine that the European society of tomorrow will prove able to overcome the capitalist stage — however controlled and humanised this may become — in the evolution of production relations, or the need for command and obedience-based relationships within the economic sphere, or for a certain subordination of schools and regional politics to the demands of the production system.
The Historical Significance of European Federation.
Some may be discouraged by the realisation that European federation is only a partial objective, but awareness of this fact constitutes a crucial intellectual tool in our struggle. Attempts to present federalism as an immediate political project, as the full realisation of all our values, are false and contradictory. False for all the reasons we have outlined here, and contradictory because a value is fully realised only when its realisation touches all men: as a political project, federalism regards Europeans alone, even though the foundation of a European federation will have major repercussions at world level. The significance of all this is that, irrespective of the scope of the advances rendered possible by European federation, Europe’s federal experience will unfold in a world that will continue to be devastated by war, hunger and injustice.
From a historical point of view, a political experience cannot be regarded as a success if its protagonists fail to become involved in the suffering of the rest of the world. Countries, rich, free and just, that will not be touched by the tragedy of the part of the world that is poor and oppressed — in general these are small, privileged countries — are whited sepulchres: in truth, they are neither truly free, nor truly just, denying as they do in their relations with the rest of the world, the very values that they claim to have realised at home.
But becoming involved in the suffering of the world’s poor and oppressed means assuming responsibility for setting them free from their misery. And responsibility implies a policy of influence, it implies the possession of arms, it implies the organisation of power (in the state) so as to be able to use those arms, it implies the maintenance of high levels of productivity through the organisation of labour: in a way, it implies relinquishment of some of the victories won in the civil sphere and the assumption of part of the suffering that one seeks to alleviate.
This will be the position in which Europe, destined in view of its size to be one of the major protagonists on the world stage, will find itself. But although its foundation will not signify the definitive realisation of all the values for which it stands, this will in no way undermine the universal historical significance of this development. Indeed, the historical significance of great revolutions is not measured solely on the basis of the material transformations that they have brought about, but also and especially on the basis of the importance of the message that they have delivered to, and of the prospects that they have opened up before, mankind. The historical importance attached to the French Revolution would be impossible to justify had its sole function been that of elevating the French middle classes to power in their country. Similarly, the foundation of a European federation will assume universal historical significance as a result not so much of the internal material transformations that it will bring — even though these will be momentous — as of the importance of the example that it will set to the rest of the world, and of the contradictions that it will throw up.
European federation will, in fact, provide an example of the institutional transformation needed for the democratic government of a modern society characterised, as a result of the evolution of the mode of production, by the increasingly vast spheres of interdependence in human relations that are emerging thanks to the overcoming of the idea of the nation as the basis on which political power must necessarily be organised. The foundation of a European federation will thus provide the first example of democratic political control to emerge in the course of the supranational phase of world history, a phase which is emerging with remarkable evidence in Europe, but which is destined increasingly to touch the whole of mankind. Thus, European federation will have a historical significance that will extend beyond the area directly affected by it. In short, it will be the prefiguration of world federation.
The universal historical significance of the European federation can already be seen in the objectively anti-imperialistic and anti-colonialist role that it will, upon its foundation, automatically assume within the world equilibrium. Imperialism and colonialism constitute the only political formula, other than federalism, with the capacity to exert some form of political control over the present supranational phase in the course of history. It is a formula which would be overcome by the birth of a European federation, as the latter would break the Russian-American monopoly of power and also be capable of adopting a responsible policy towards the countries of the third world, a policy that really would allow them to extricate themselves from the downward spiral of underdevelopment and enable them to evolve towards ever more profound forms of integration, and thus towards real, not just nominal, independence. This would, of course, be an indispensable precondition for the creation of a world federation as the latter can be born only as a pact between peoples that are equally free and civilised.
But, above all else, the future European federation will embody a contradiction so rich in potential for future development that it will constitute a dynamic and progressive element in the next phase in the historical course. Its foundation, unlike that of the American federation, will not be an expedient for the resolution of a crisis situation limited to a specific area, moreover not central to the world equilibrium, but the conscious overcoming of the nation-state, in other words, of the principle which decrees that state and nation must, necessarily, coincide.
The European federation will not seek, upon its foundation, to justify its existence by setting itself up as the state of the Europeans, but only on the basis of a negative principle: in short, the rejection of the nation as the basis for the political organisation of mankind. As a result, it will, from the outset, show a particular quality that, despite being an innate characteristic of the federation as a form of state, failed to emerge in the American experience: that of being open to all the peoples of the world, a form of state whose very principle is negated by frontiers. Having said that, the reality of the world equilibrium is such that world federation cannot, today, be considered an immediate political objective. The European federation will thus start life as a regional federation, and such it will be destined to remain for a long time to come. It will, as we have already said, be obliged to bow to the rules of raison d’état, albeit a raison d’état that will be, globally, more progressive than that of the current nation-states; it will adopt a policy of influence, albeit, overall, a more evolutive one; there will be no abolition within it of relationships based on domination, even though these will be rendered more humane. But the political power will not have at its disposal any ideological instrument which works as effectively as the ideology of the nation as a means of justifying war, dominion, and exploitation.
The nation-state, founded on the principle of the necessary coincidence of state with nation, represents the full accomplishment of a political formula. It provides those in power with all the ideological instruments they need to justify inequalities among men, national egoism, war and exploitation. The federal state, on the other hand, when it is restricted to one world region, is an imperfect political formula. Being limited in space, it cannot eliminate the inequalities among men, national egoism, war or exploitation; at the same time, it cannot justify nationalism and closure, representing through its very birth the antithesis of these values. It is thus a weak and contradictory political formula since, through its very realisation, it constitutes a negation of its own principle.
What this means, however, is that it is an evolving formula — the contradiction that undermines it is also the motor driving it on and preventing it from crystallising, rendering it unstable until such time as cosmopolitanism, its principle, is finally realised through the founding of a world federation.
These considerations are, in our view, crucial if we are to understand what ideas European society will prove able to embody, the values which it will bring to the fore. These elements help us to appreciate that, in this regard, European society will be poles apart from American society, not only because it has, unlike the latter, lived through the experience of socialism, and not only because the pluralism that will characterise European society will be richer by far than the, somewhat artificial, pluralism of American society. The difference will lie, in part and above all, in the following fact: as its birth will be objectively qualified, in value terms, by the overcoming of the nation-state, and thus by rejection of the world’s division into sovereign states, the European federation is destined to trigger social behaviours oriented towards cosmopolitanism, and these, frustrated by the reality of European politics, will constitute a permanent ferment of opposition, a permanent reminder of certain values, a permanent guilty conscience to trouble Europe’s politicians. These behaviours will be the salt of European society and will keep alive the significance, in value terms, that the foundation of the European federation will objectively have had for the rest of the world. All this means that the bearers of the historical significance of the European federation will not only be the political classes in power, but also, and above all, the forces in opposition. Thus, in seeking to evaluate how important this federation will be to the future of mankind, it is necessary to consider not only the policies that the European governments will prove able to implement, but also, and above all, the possible new values that the opposing forces, inside and outside parliaments, will prove able to highlight and disseminate.
The Nature of Federalist Action.
To conclude, a further consideration should be presented which, in fact, follows on logically from all that has been said thus far. By giving voice to its concerns and aspirations, and by engaging in its various struggles, European society is responding on a daily basis to the question, “Why build Europe?” Federalists find themselves faced with the task of removing the obstacle that bars it — the nation-state — and of creating the institutional framework within which these concerns might be quelled, these aspirations realised, and these struggles won: a European federation. This is the most they can do. They cannot expect to shape the society of tomorrow’s Europe, because, as Proudhon writes: “…now it is not a question of imagining, of piecing together in our minds a system that we will later unveil: that is not the way to go about reforming the world. It is up to society to put itself right, there is no other way; therefore, what we must now do is study every manifestation of human nature, laws, religions, customs, political economy.”
Thus, federalists need, above all, to be able to understand the nature of the process that is under way, to understand all its limitations, and to help the people of Europe to gain an awareness of the movement in which they themselves are the actors. Federalists might be reminded of the illuminating remark made, with reference to the working class, by Marx in The Civil War in France : “It [the working class], he writes, does not have a wonderful utopia ready to be brought about by popular decree. It knows that the conquest of its own freedom, and with it that highest form of life towards which today’s society, thanks to its economic development, is irresistibly moving, can be won only through long struggles, and by passing through a whole series of historical processes, by which men and circumstances will be entirely transformed. It does not have ideals to realise; it only has to liberate the elements of the new society that have already evolved in the bosom of the disintegrating bourgeois society.”
All this is not to say, of course, that the action of federalists serves no purpose. While they may not be able to change society, their intervention is crucial to the transformation of the institutions that prevent it from evolving. And there can be no doubt that without the initiative of the federalists, Europe will not be built.
Neither does all this signify that the European government will not have choices to make. All it means is that the alternatives with which it will be faced will be such that, in the most important areas, even the most unpopular and the worst choices will still be infinitely more advanced than the most “progressive” choices that might be made by a national government.
Neither, finally, does it mean that federalists should, in the course of their struggle, lose sight of the ultimate values. It just means that the realisation of these values depends not on the capacity of federalists themselves to develop an attractive “utopia” that can be brought about by popular decree, but rather on mankind’s slow and uncontrollable maturation in the course of history: this they can favour by showing the way, not by plotting its path ex novo.
Francesco Rossolillo

* This article was published in French in Le Fédéraliste, XII (1970).


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