Chapter 3: The Battle for Europe

16. European integration through culture
I had already been in contact with the Geneva European Cultural Centre in 1957 during my European exploration travels. Founded by Denis de Rougemont, it was, for decades the fulcrum of European integration through culture and dialogue on civilisation. Denis de Rougemont himself had earned a considerable reputation in the 1930s as the author of “Love in the Western World” which is still published regularly and has a place among the great classics of twentieth century European literature. His life and his works are well documented. Having known him very well and over a long period I will limit myself to a few significant anecdotes.
Denis de Rougemont was not a meek intellectual. He sometimes broke out from all the constraints connected to his social status relating to conventional ideas on Europe and later, especially on those concerning ecology, to the point that at times officialdom distanced itself from him. He vigorously championed not a simple European integration but a true federation founded on regions. This idea germinated a little at a time. In May ’68 on the debate on ecology he was determinedly on the side of the innovators, frequently lambasting in a fairly aggressive manner the very symbol of the consumer society: the car.
It was not always easy to talk to him, but one could listen to him for hours. With a little patience something was always obtained because he had a very acute sensitivity behind the gaze he turned on men and things. His plan was more democratic than can be imagined, contrary to some of the criticisms that were directed at him in France, mainly thanks to a fashionable intellectual who had not taken the trouble to check the origin of the texts which he had targeted. Thirty years ago the simple reference to the word “federalist” provoked ancestral “revolutionary” reactions in France.
In 1976 I devoted myself to carrying forward a new project for the European Centre of Culture which, according to me, should have inspired the programme of the Federalist movements. The idea was to suggest to the European people the publication at regular intervals of a report under the title “Report on the State of the Union”. The only edition of this report was published in 1979 by Denis de Rougemont in the name of the “Cadmos Group”, a small nucleus of pro-European friends (such as Robert Triffin, François Bondy, Jacques Freymont, Edward Goldsmith, Alexandre Marc, Alexander King and myself as coordinator). I had found the name Cadmos in an encyclopedia on Greek mythology. Brother of Europa, who was kidnapped by Jove, Cadmos had gone looking for her. Cadmos was also remem­bered as the one who, during his wanderings, had introduced new technologies, particularly the use of iron. And so he was a “researcher” of the ideal Europe. Rougemont immediately made the idea his own and used “Cadmos” to give a new title to the European Centre of Culture’s bulletin.
In a text preparatory to the report Denis de Rougemont wrote: “… There does not exist a favourable wind for one who does not know where he is going. Before all else goals must be determined. A great far off objective arouses in us much greater energies than a close by and modest end which leaves them dormant. The means for arriving at the goal must emanate from the goal itself, they must be dictated by it, with all one’s faculties concentrated on it. How could the European people be made to see the Goal of its union, big enough and inclusive enough to arouse their energies. Clear enough and attractive enough so that this intensely viewed goal would indicate the means of achieving it? It is necessary to opt for the freedom of people and for the overcoming of state-nation sovereignty, i.e. give the world an example contrary to the one given till now by the European States-nations.”
This report supported a “simultaneous birth of regions – defined as the most important political innovation of the century – and the European Federation”. It indicated the various ways and symbolic gestures which were then multiplied throughout Europe, for affirming local identities. It also recorded however that “the many terrorist crimes committed by ETA are currently the worst threat not only to Spanish democracy but to regionalism itself, to the federalist spirit, to Europe, to Freedom in the world of tomorrow”.
The Federation has to be present for there to be the means of ensuring respect for others, for defending the sovereignty of each one. As in the case of the Swiss Constitution which is there to safeguard the independence of the Cantons.
The European Federation is, then, the principal means of fighting for peace and democracy and for “rendering war among nations unthinkable”. We must, however, pay attention − it was already written at that time to the fact that civil war, terrorism both within and beyond borders, capable of using advanced technology, must also be subject to a supranational State – to law.
The remainder of the report dealt broadly with social, economic and ecological questions to which I will return later. Here, in any case, is one more opportunity for demonstrating that the path of the new society in gestation, at the European and the world levels, implied a certain parallelism and interdependence between federalism, the new post-industrial econom­ics based on services, and ecology as a means of preserving and developing the material and human resources of the earth over the long term.

17. At Duino Castle
“Are you perhaps a member of the family of the Counts of Tschyariny who have a castle not far from Prague?” the old and distinguished gentleman unexpectedly asked me. I cannot say for sure that the name written corresponds to the one spoken by my questioner. Why would he mention Prague rather than another city in Czechoslovakia? But that is not of great importance. Alas, there are no Counts in my family, only country folk on the banks of the Brenta, near Venice. They took the name Giarini from the little pebble beaches along the river. After Napoleon and the great economic crisis of the ancient Republic of Venice, a small group of those country folk came from there to the then booming city of Trieste.
This question was put to me at a reception in the old castle of Duino, twenty kilometres from Trieste on the road to Monfalcone. At that time the home of Prince Raymond of Turn and Taxis was still well cared for. The place was on a cliff on the Adriatic Sea, with ter­races where poets and artists had been variously inspired. The living room piano was the one on which Liszt had placed his fingers, and given lessons, as is fitting, to Prince Raymond’s grandmother. The same castle that inspired Rainer Maria Rilke to write the “Duineser Elegien”, the Duino Elegies.
The castle then, as today, was partly built on Roman foundations. One day the Prince told us that while digging out a niche in a wall in order to put a bar there he had found some Roman coins.
Raymond of Turn and Taxis had done everything possible to preserve his castle and the symbol of an old Europe that it represented. After the war he had sold several plots of the surrounding land a little at a time. These included two or three small villages. It was said that during the war when the allied command requisitioned the castle, the commander set up quarters in a tent in the garden to make it clear that he was at home.
Some student friends and I had entered into contact with him thanks to our European activities. At the end of the 1950s we began to ask him if we could conclude a seminar with a short visit, particularly as few years earlier he had been a guest at the first general assembly of the European University Association, another of the organisations born under an impulse of the European federalist movements presided over by Michel Mouskhely.
At the castle some rooms were set aside to accommodate the participants and this was a great help. Once or twice I slept in a room with Chinese decorations. It appears that some of the pictures were painted by the Prince’s father. Later they told me that my room was haunted by a ghost, but even then I slept soundly. Then, as today, the windows looked out onto the remains of an old medieval castle almost completely destroyed. It bears the name of Dama Bianca (White Lady), which it is said was the name of the wife of a crusader who on his return, having learnt of her infidelity had her walled up alive. It was also said that her screams are heard when on stormy nights the “bora” blows at more than a hundred kilometres an hour.
This long collaboration reached its apotheosis in September 1983 when together with Andre Reszler, the new director of the European Centre of Culture, we proposed a conference to underline the importance of “Mitteleurope” in the modern world.
With the promise of a room facing the “Madama Bianca”, I ensured the participation of Karl Popper, the great science philosopher who, in the 1920s, had written a reference book on the subject. He took part in order to cast doubt on the scientific value of psychoanalysis, but what interested me was that he bore witness to the notion of uncertainty in contemporary science. He did this in the large amphitheatre of the Miramare Theoretical Physics Institute in Trieste, directed at that time by the Pakistani Nobel Prize recipient, Abdus Salam, also a member of the Club of Rome. The title of the conference was “Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery”.
I had the opportunity to get to know Karl Popper better while accompanying him to the Venice airport. During the entire journey we discussed the logic of mental illness, a subject that fascinated him. I had read an article that explained how a scientist appears to be a psychopath at the beginning of a research task: he is so concentrated that he cannot see or hear what is happening around him. The great difference shows itself at the end of the research process: at the point when it is demonstrated that an idea or hypothesis is false, the scientist, satisfied with having understood, in spite of the negative result, puts the documentation aside and goes searching somewhere else. The mentally ill person, instead, continues along the same direction, unable to accept the uncertainty and the discussion.
“I still remember the funeral of Franz Josef, which my father had made me attend in 1916 along the Ring”. This is how Victor Weisskopf, ex-Director General of the European Nuclear Research Centre in Geneva began his speech at Duino. I had managed to convince him to make his contribution after a lunch at CERN to which he had invited me so that I could give him details of the aim of the gathering. While we were discussing the future of Eastern Europe and “our” “Mitteleurope” culture he asked me: “Giarini, I wouldn’t say so from your name, but are you Jewish?” Without hesitation I answered him: “No, but thank you for the compliment!”
I had also managed to have his brother Walter Weisskopf, Economics professor at the Roosevelt University of Chicago and “Visiting Scholar” at Stanford, come to Duino. For him I organised a special conference, just before the one with Karl Popper at the Theoretical Physics Centre, on “Uncertainty in economic thought” at which an old friend from the Sorbonne, René Passet, also made a contribution. I found myself supporting in a direct line what Professor Robert Montgomery had instilled in me in Texas. Here are the introductory words to Walter Weisskopf’s argument: “Man is an actor who performs in a drama without really knowing in what kind of intrigue he is involved. Our role in existence takes place in uncertainty concerning its meaning. It is an adventure of decision within the limits of freedom and necessity”. Right in the middle of my work for the Geneva Association, Fabio Padoa, President of the Geneva Association, was also present.
André Reszler had managed to get Romanian born Eugène Ionesco to come to Duino as well as many other historic writers, historians and poets of Eastern European origin. There were Andrzej Kusniewicz, Matei Calinescu, Antonin Liehm, Miklos Molnar, György Ranki. As organiser I allowed myself the privilege of filming the whole conference. Trieste authors, by birth or by choice, were not lacking in number either; Claudio Magris and Enzo Bettiza who today keep alive the high literary cultural level inaugurated by Italo Svevo and Umberto Saba, had also come.
Prince Raymond had personally invited Otto von Habsburg, son of the last emperor, Charles of Austria and Hungary, successor, in 1916 to Franz Josef, and forced to abdicate in 1918. A German member of Parliament for the demochristian party, in the then current context he upheld with great dignity an old tradition in its best part – the ability to have very different peoples live together.
Today, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe once again finds in the East an essential part of itself. The disasters of the twentieth century must serve as a scarecrow for what must never happen again. In any case here is a new dynamic project for Europe and perhaps for Trieste, that unique city where the great matrices of the continent converge: Latins, Germanics, Slavs. It is a great challenge beckoning those who will know how to have future generations do better.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10