Chapter 3: The Battle for Europe

1. A European in Texas
I began to become “European” before being federalist, in 1955-56 in Texas, during my university stay in Austin. There were 1,800 foreign students there. Among these the Europeans of every nationality formed a minority of less than 600. I participated in the activ­ities of the foreign student organisation of which in fact I became vice-president. It was the maximum to which I could aspire provided I was not considered to be “only” an Italian.
Much more dramatic and at the same time comic was the time they asked me to hold a conference in the lecture hall on the initiatives introduced for the economic integration of Europe. The ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) had gone into operation in 1952. After France had rejected the EDC (European Defence Community) in 1954 the European relaunch was introduced through the Messina conference of June 1955, after which the governments of the six countries began to prepare the treaties for the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. At that time I knew absolutely nothing about this and with only two days’ warning I had to speak in public on all of it.
I set about reading the political and economic magazines looking for references. I concentrated on my own personal and limited perception of what Europeans had in common. Before me I had a class made up mainly of girls who, in keeping with the American fashion of the day wore white thick cotton socks that stopped below the knee. I told them that I had never seen girls in any European country wearing socks like those. A buzz wound its way around the lecture hall and my entire female public tried as hard as they could to hide the lower part of their legs under the seats. It was amusing, but I felt ashamed for having had recoursed to such strategies in order to cover, rather than confess my ignorance. That same day I wrote to my parents in Trieste asking them to find me all the addresses they could of organisations, centres, institutes that dealt in some way with Europe.
On my return to Trieste from the United States in 1956, I went at once to an address (1 Piazza San Giovanni, first floor) where on a door plate was written “Movimento Federalista Europeo”. I didn’t find anyone. Neither the doorkeeper nor the owner of a small watch shop on the ground floor was able to give me any precise information, except that someone was occasionally seen in that apartment. The doorkeeper thought that one of the rare visitors was probably a baker who had his shop in via Rossetti. I made my way along this long street, looking for the shop in question. It was in this manner that I met half a dozen people, among them a teacher, an accountant and a lawyer.
The last person I met was an elderly gentleman, Emanuele Flora, a concentration camp survivor. I have never met another person who was so good, wise and understanding in dealing with human errors, bearing in mind what he himself had lived through. He was the first to make me reflect on the fact that everyone – Nazis, Jews, and other men and women – shares the same destiny and the same humanity. Those who had been exterminated in the camps were first of all human beings and only afterwards Jews, gypsies or political enemies (and this holds good for Stalin too). We were “us”. Unfortunately, even the torturers were “us”, humans. There is no such thing as an acceptable appropriation of victims on the part of a group or of a particular nationality. Nor does the possibility of total refusal of every re­sponsibility for the actions of torturers and brute force exist. The path towards a real human civilisation has still a long way to go. Progress can and must be made. They are made step by step over the long distance. It is a matter of respecting ourselves and respecting the other part, that is also in us instead of exorcising our weaknesses and our anxieties by looking for external enemies.
To build Europe, developing federalism meant taking a small step in the right direction. It was Emanuele Flora who gently instilled the seeds of these ideas in me.
The other members of the Movement, having almost no contact with national or European organisations, had lost hope of being able to do anything useful and even considered dissolv­ing the Trieste section. Moreover there was the rent on the headquarters to be paid and there was practically no income. In short, within the space of a few weeks I found myself the section’s secretary.
First of all the money to pay the rent and other expenses had to be found. To this end I organised some language courses (English and German) using teachers who spoke these as if they were their mother tongue. When the English teacher could not come I gave the lesson myself. At that time society was not as organised as it is now and I was so inexperienced that I did not ask for permits nor did I pay any tax in spite of the fact that information about the courses appeared among the classified advertisements in “Il Piccolo”, the local daily paper.


2. In Search of Europeist Movements
After my return from the United States, using every available means, I began to identify the European movements and organisations that existed in Italy and the numerous countries of the continent. I made use of all the journeys (by train) that I could. On arrival at the station of an important city I went to check the local telephone directories, looking under words such as Europe, European, federalist, union or European association etc. I went in person to see what there was at the addresses indicated. At Cornavin station in Geneva there is still a telephone box that I had difficulty using in the spring of 1967 because I did not have enough Swiss money. I found that there was a Swiss section of the European Union and I went there on a tram characteristic of the period – it still exists − number 12. I got off at an address near the International School: It was the home of the head of the school and it was his wife who opened the door to me. It turned out that it was her daughter who dealt with the federalist activities but she was not at home; however, I could see her the next day.
At that point I didn’t realise that I was making the acquaintance of my future mother-in-law. Her daughter in fact was the one who made me “catch fire” as Henri Frenay was to say and who would become my first wife.
In Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rome and other cities, I made contact with and visited most of the European and federalist associations. Getting to know their headquarters, even when they were closed or those in charge were absent was still useful to me as it gave me a visual idea of the organisation. I’m writing about a management principle which at that time I adopted by instinct and from necessity and which I have always maintained in all my subsequent activities, above all in those relating to industrial research and insurance.
In my wanderings I ran into numerous local organisations or ones with a different polit­ical and economic vocation. For example that of a Hannover lady, Mrs. Servaes, who had founded a group “Helft Europa Jugend” to stimulate meetings among the youth of different countries and to help them to think about their common future in post-war Europe.
During these journeys I had seen many cities in Germany where traces of the destruction caused by the conflict were still clearly visible. The Berlin Wall had not been built yet and it was easy to go to the eastern part of the country. With the recklessness of young students one evening some friends and I went to the “Budapest”, a nightclub frequented mostly by the Communist rulers of the city. I asked if I could enter, saying simply that I was Italian and consequently they did not demand that I show a party membership card. The club was full of very young senior managers. It was evident that by entrusting power to those who probably had not earned it, political control was established. So I told myself: young people could fall into the trap of their own ambition, thus manipulating themselves. A good number of the public present in the “Budapest” in fact had the rather arrogant air of the upstart. The only old man in the place was a waiter who came to serve us and he said in my ear, on hearing that we were not communists, “At least for once I can serve gentlemen” Pushing our luck a little provocatively we asked if there was any Coca-Cola or whisky, but we had to content ourselves with vodka.

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