Chapter 3: The Battle for Europe

3. First European “List”

Together with two friends in Trieste at that time I founded a European “list”, la Libera Lista Goliardica (the Free Goliardic List), of participants in student elections. This list obtained three seats with Ruggero de Portula, who took up the management of a centre that organised trips and holidays in the snow, and Giorgio Carlonci, who was one of those typical traditional University characters, known for his sudden impulses and his good festive temperament. As for me, I began to take part in what is known as university politics as part of a European group and participated in the Congress of the UNURI in Rimini in 1957 and in Cattolica in 1959. The President of this organisation was Marco Pannella who later fought many “lay” battles in Italy, especially with his Radical Party. The leader of the university was Bettino Craxi, who would later become the Italian Prime Minister. At that time he had a fairly Leninist attitude: thin, a little sullen, distant and with a revolutionary-rigorist style. It was difficult to speak to him if you were not a member of his group. Later, when advancing his career, before dying in Tunisia, he would become markedly fatter, change his style and as leader of the socialist party would become, among others, a friend of Silvio Berlusconi. It was a very different path from that of Francois Mitterrand who introduced the Communist party directly into the French government while Craxi indirectly opened the door for the government to the old fascist party transformed into the “Alleanza Nazionale”. In the UNURI the greatest leader at the time was Marco Pannella, he of the fiery speeches, who prepared to open up to Europe, so much so that some years later he fought for the European Federalist Movement and collaborated in organising the private elections of the Congress of the European People, a subject that will be taken up later in the book.
My participation at the Cattolica Congress ended in drama. The Trieste University students had not paid their association fee to the UNURI, partly for political reasons. I was absolutely convinced that Trieste University should rightfully enter this organisation and I pleaded this good cause among some of the members of our delegation. Three of us signed an acknowledgement of personal debt to pay what was owed, so convinced were we at that time that once back in Trieste a reimbursement would be a mere formality. We are talking of a considerable sum for students like us. For six months we had to fight, to live in agony because the “Tribune” (the head of the Trieste student assembly) refused to accept the debt. My parents never knew anything about this.
“You’re so stupid as to personally sign.” they used to say to me. In the end the funds were unblocked but I learned to make no more mistakes of this kind.
Even the trips organised for students with a view to leading them into “Europe” had some problems. We had planned a trip by train to Germany and Brussels and had obtained a special coach. There were enough bookings to fill it. At the last minute all the hotel bookings went up in smoke for a variety of reasons. The trip, however, was not cancelled. I left a day early on our first stage and spent the day looking for an inexpensive hotel for 40 people. When the group arrived everything was in order and Ruggiero di Portula had already left to carry out the same operation in the next city. And so it went on. Everything went well, but here too I learned to be more careful when it came to hotel bookings.
Besides the conferences on Europe held in Trieste and other cities of the region the EFM also organised seminars such as the one in May 1959 on transport policies in Europe. This initiative was picked up by some experts from Trieste University who continued to develop it until very recent times.
Finally in 1959 I launched a small European periodical (Rassegna Europea), published two or three times a year for five years. The last three issues of the magazine were published thanks to the involvement of the regional head of the EFM, Guido Commessati, who was in Udine and divided his time between his pharmacy and his devotion to Europe. My first collaborator on this magazine was Armando Zimolo who would later become the Secretary General of the young Italian liberals. A very talented writer, while remaining “European” he dedicated himself to what had been the party of Benedetto Croce and at that time was led by Giovanni Malagodi. It is thanks to them that I often go to Rome to have lunch at “Mario’s”, on via della Vite, in the Piazza Spagna area.


4. The “Integral” Federalism of Alexandre Marc
In May 1959 during a refresher course at the Contamines near Chamonix, I listened for the first time to Alexandre Marc, an activist, great orator and intellectual of “integral” federal­ism who put particular stress on the social dimension of Europe. He was originally from Odessa which he had left in 1918 at the age of 14. When still very young he had turned to the new progressive trends and he would always have a deep attachment to Proudhon. His real name was Lipiansky and his call to the federalist battle reduced me to tears of emotion. To my surprise he and his wife used “voi” with each other following a rather aristocratic French usage.
Alexandre Marc was the man most responsible for the introduction of the term “massification” into contemporary language. His “integral” federalism stood against disintegration in the contemporary world, of the primary and secondary groups (the family, labour and professional associations, clubs and district cultural groups). The human being lives in a community, or rather in various communities. He cannot therefore become “one dimen­sion­al” because he risks losing himself, of submitting himself to a dictatorship of the uniform mass, open to coercion at will. Power must not be centralised but divided into different levels in line with necessity.
For Marc, even liberalism and socialism tend to standardise. Federalism therefore forms an antidote and building Europe is the most concrete means of creating a framework capable of counterbalancing powers and of increasing the opportunities for subdividing them. Contrast and diversity represent social and political richness for a real modern democracy. This joint venture is connected to the idea of subsidiarity which demands or suggests that any power be established only at the most efficacious level. From this there derives the plan for a supranational Europe, at the same time founded on regions, or even more, as in Switzerland, on towns.
At the European Federalist Movement’s Montreux Congress in 1964 Alexandre Marc succeeded in having a “Federalist Charter” voted in. I have always sympathised with the ideas to which, till the very last days, he dedicated his long life, but I maintained that his economic analyses were based a little too much on ideological visions that did not manage to encompass the experience of my employment activities nor my personal considerations on the subject. I could also agree with his fundamental political principles but believed that they made difficult the integration of the various realities and contemporary economic development in an efficacious synthesis.
Alexandre Marc’s “integral” federalism moved forward in parallel with a series of movements and cultural clubs related, with various minor differences, to federalism, such as, between the two world wars, Mounier’s personalism in France to which Marc and Denis de Rougemont had subscribed. Another was the “comunitarista” movement of Adriano Olivetti who, from a beginning in Piedmont had been able to develop a large typewriter industry (later converted into electronics and then telecommunications) supporting the local economy, and who contributed generously to the Association for the Council of European Municipalities. When one enters or leaves European cities and villages one often sees a sign referring to “twinning” with other cities in various European countries. These are the fruits of meticulous work that has gone on for decades, without counting the initiative taken to promote local autonomy at the regional level, and finally following the same inspiration across the various  projects of cross border regions.
In the same sphere of influence as Alexandre Marc we must also remember two law professors from Strasbourg University, Michel Mouskhely, who came from Georgia, Stalin’s homeland, and who in the 1950s had organised an expedition with some French and German students to tear down border barriers. He subsequently became President of the Congress of European People, and in that role drew up a European Constituent project which floats to the surface in many European projects even in our time. Guy Héraut was a colleague of his and he too took up the same project, dedicating himself to the rights of minorities. It was sometimes difficult to have a discussion with him. He vigorously defended the principle of the rights of the ethnic minorities, in most cases more than legitimate in a more democratic vision of society. Sometimes, this created problems, especially when he was asserting local autonomy to the point when tendencies toward some more or less disguised forms of local nationalism emerge. And nationalism with its demand to exclude everyone else, be they local, national, European or global, is never federalist. Somewhere there exists a demarcation line which foolish passion sometimes leads us to cross.

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