Chapter 3: The Battle for Europe

7. Organisation of the Elections
In July 1956 a group of European federalists from several countries among them Altiero Spinelli, Michel Mouskely, Alexandre Marc, Luciano Bolis and Alberto Cabella met in Stresa to found and put into operation the Congress of the European People. Following the defeat of the European Defence Community treaty this group adopted a very critical position towards national governments. There was a matter of organising private elections for the election of delegates with a view to proposing a European Constituent Assembly. Between 1957 and 1961, the Congress managed to collect 820,000 votes. It was an activity that involved many activists and the event often drew the attention of television in cities such as Strasbourg, Milan, or Darmstadt.
Altiero Spinelli was the soul of this initiative to which Alexandre Marc and others added the editing of the “Cahiers de doléances” (Grievances Papers) in line with the tradition of the French Revolution. The initiative continued for some years, especially in Austria but it also put the seal on the breakup of the European federalist organisations and above all an imbalance among the number of voters was created, more than half of them being Italian. Spinelli retired for a time to the Johns Hopkins University in Bologna. Meantime it was precisely with the dissolution of this noble initiative that I had to deal after my election as Secretary General. In fact from 9th February 1962 the delegates elected by the Congress of the European People decided that the Federalist Movement was to be charged with carrying out its activities. The hope that it would become the principal element in the struggle for the European Federation was abandoned.
I too had contributed to the activities of this Congress. Starting from Basle in Alsace elections had been organised in several villages and small towns. At the beginning we had the support of some pro-Europe political parties that had promised to take care of the distribution of the voting papers. In many villages in fact nothing at all was done. Every available federalist went to work at five in the morning to deliver the papers to every house and every family. I myself knocked on every door, in every street, road and alley in Riedisheim. I have never, before or since, visited a centre of habitation in such a detailed manner! During the day I went around the whole area, in my car with its Swiss number plates, inviting the inhabitants to go to vote. I had a loudspeaker in the open boot which I closed with a string whenever a police patrol appeared on the horizon. They never stopped us. The results were fairly good and the experience repeated the following year.
In Geneva my wife had organised the same elections with simple announcements in the newspapers.
And so it was that on 20 October 1962 the Central Committee of the EFM (European Federalist Movement), meeting in Paris elected me as Secretary General on the conditions I have described. Etienne Hirsch took part in the Movement following the previous congress in Lyons, at the beginning of 1962. He was the ex-President of Euratom (the European Energy Community) in whose removal de Gaulle had played a part because of what was considered his too independent Europeist attitude.
This long time collaborator of Jean Monnet thus became a symbol and almost a hero of the EFM. In May 1964 he accepted the Presidency of the Central Committee, having already been the EFM’s representative within the International Office of the European Movement in 1963. This office created after the Aja Congress in 1948, brought together all the then existing federalist and “Europeist” organisations, including those directly set up by political parties. Etienne Hirsch would keep those positions for several years, on many occasions testifying to the need to build a Federal Europe without (or only exceptionally) interfering in the internal organisation of the Movement and its specific political activities that were mainly discussed and decided by the Executive Office. The President of this office was Raymond Rifflet, a Belgian intellectual with socialist leanings, very devoted to and enthusiastic about the European cause and very independent with regard to his ties to the Belgian socialist party. He was prevented from advancing in his career because of this.  Nevertheless at the Montreux Congress in 1964 his speeches and his determination impressed Jean Rey whose Cabinet chief he became at the presidency of the European Community. Some of the truly great activists for Europe took part in this same Executive Office including Jean-Pierre Gouzy, for some decades keystone of the federalist organisation and activity in France. He had also been an excellent journalist and President of the Association of European Journalists.
When I took up the reins of the secretary general the most urgent matter was that of cementing relations with all the regions and all possible sections, through my weekend trips. I also tried to take part, through writings and conferences, in the European political debate. At that time Pierre Mendès-France had just published a book on his experience as Prime Minister. Like every “progressist” I appreciated the man but his European activities had been received rather badly by the federalists. Here is the open letter that I had sent him in 1963. It reassumes the principal arguments of European politics.
Taken from the “Epistle of Paul to his most beloved brother Peter”:
My dearest brother Peter, I have read that the vocation has shown itself once again and that you have made your fervent contribution to the formation of a modern republic. In these times one no longer tries to found new churches but rather, new States. Nevertheless there are always the voices of some apostles to indicate the right path to hesitant humanity.
In these times even words have changed. Once it was enough to speak of a good shepherd and a good tradesman to give a human and understandable meaning to our concepts. Today, instead, good and evil seem to pass through crucial movements and the unstable equilibrium of some developing regions.
This is why I too will try, my dear Peter, to adapt to these necessities to return to the arguments with which you deal in your latest writings which I have just read.
Permit me first of all to recall the words of one of the most famous prophets of the State. Like me, he too used to love to write letters, although he was inspired by the Persian non-believers. One day he said that between Europe and the world he would choose the world, and that between France and Europe he would choose Europe. And herein lies my doubt, dear brother: would you, in the matter of your modern republic have inverted this choice? Your work is, of course based on knowledge and science, but haven’t you perhaps tried to insert a large picture into a small frame? I have made an effort to understand the problems you examine with such insight. I read for example, that foreign trade falls between 20 and 40 % of national product. I read further that some installation and production projects are often superfluous in Europe: you mention the car industry, textiles, the steel industry, aeronautics, chemistry, synthetic products, electronic appliances…. (what of any importance is left beyond these?). I’ve understood then that to be able to speak of a better use of production factors, without risking the consequences of an uneven distribution it is necessary to start from the continental level in order to consider the economic and political structures that are essential for ensuring that men and women have a democratic and, therefore human future. You will understand then that I am astounded by the fact that you do not consider the European framework as a preliminary to your whole work.
You have understood, Peter, what reality is because you say that the political system must be adapted to coordinating and planning economic life. You also say that the establishment of a regime of democracy and new freedom, suited to the times and problems, is required. What you cannot do, however, without the risk of wanting to cross the ocean in a small sailboat, is to propose theoretically acceptable tools, in a dimension in which they can be only partially used, and especially not for the purpose of fighting for democracy as you hope to do.
Once an outline of the productive structure in Europe has been prepared, you cannot think of building the ideal republic other than where this structure imposes its dimensions. You account for this situation by taking into consideration, with a certain astonishment, the words of Pflimlin: “A purely national plan loses much of its efficacy and meaning”. Despite this you continue to study the problem at a national level.
When you begin to take an interest in the Plan and in Europe you express yourself in a rather strange way. “It is impossible”, you say, “in the time of the Common Market, not to foresee European extensions of planning policies.” Here it is necessary to be clear about one point: The Europe of the supranational economy, in the measure in which it exists, was not created by the Common Market (which at most was psychologically in favour of it), but by the intrinsic need for a modern productive structure. What you say therefore, leads me to believe that you foresee, for the European States, a series of national economic plans. The result could then be that “the rest of the world” would serve as a rubbish dump where States could rid themselves of those of their imbalances that not even planning would be able to overcome.
And it is here that the old principle of international “laissez faire” that you throw out the door, comes back in through the window. The only way to overcome this contradiction is to start considering every proposal, starting with the European outline as such and to commit yourself to the battle for the creation of a supranational, democratically responsible organ­ism. At the European level, any other solution, such as for example, that of an international commercial treaty could not lead to anything other than a network of interstate economic relations of a liberal kind, even if the economies of all the sovereign national States were completely planned.
Further on you say: “How do we reconcile national planning decisions and belonging to an international organisation founded on the increasingly free circulation of goods, workers and capital, including countries that remain faithful, at least in principle, to liberalism with non intervention by the State in the economic field?”
This sentence, my dear Peter, could have been written by an economics contemporary of Adam Smith, and allows one to think that you do not desire a European plan, because if the “free exchange” of goods apparently belongs to the liberal vocabulary (actually why, over time, prevent every European from acquiring any European goods without paying customs duties?) when one speaks of the free circulation of production factors (such as labour and capital) between States (and not only within one State) one is speaking of an economic policy whose objective is structures.
The only observation to be made at this point is, once again, that the so called European authorities need real powers to be able to put this circulation to work. Economic reality there­fore gives these words, which to my way of thinking, you judge a little lightly, a perspective much closer to a plan than you seem to realise.
Furthermore, do you really believe that today it is possible to think of improving the national structures of a plan with all its political ramifications, on the basis of a reality that will escape it anyway?
I do not believe, my dear brother, that you will need forty days of solitude in the desert to admit that your modern republic is today called European Federalism. Democracy always loves strongholds but it needs a continent in which to breathe and not die of asphyxiation.
May the light of truth illuminate your steps as founder and help you to scientifically apply the fruits of your experience: I exhort you to gather your forces, your disciples, your friends to preach the alternative of supranational European democracy.
Your  brother PAUL

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