For an autonomous Europe in a new world order

Europe is  at a crossroads. The palliatives suggested by the best (Italian) minds of liberalist tradition, like Mario Draghi, do not even touch the heart of the problem.

The topic of a European army has emerged forcefully in recent times as a consequence of the debate within the EU on the increase in spending on NATO weapons and on the establishment of a fund to support Ukraine at war. In addition, a statement by French President Macron announcing a military commitment by his country, on the ground, raised this new issue for the other European countries, who expressed their opposition in a large majority, but not unanimously.

All in all, the argument seems to be a classic weapon of mass distraction: The European Union is an entity far from giving itself a unitary state form, at least federal, and is rather accentuating its supranational, mainly intergovernmental nature, with huge bureaucratic-administrative functions, given the roles assigned to the elective assembly and the Commission. It is an entity without a common Constitution, which is based on an impressive number of treaties and directives, with a laughable common budget and, if that were not enough, without a common Treasury, a common currency, a common debt and a common fiscal system, so much so as to host tax havens within it and to allow ruthless downward competition between national tax systems, face to the main monopolies, which hold the most significant shares of world wealth. Such an entity cannot even foreshadow something like a common army.

This having said, it would be a mistake to stop on this pure observation. The weapon of mass distraction can in fact be taken as an opportunity to address, at a mass level and not only among professionals and the intelligentsia, the crucial issue that afflicts Europe today and which consists in its progressive irrelevance in the geopolitical framework. An issue that has reached its peak of gravity now that, subjected to the dominant position of the leading power of the capitalist West whose pre-eminent strategic interest is to counter China, the rival power, it is called by the dominus to shoulder the economic burdens of the military commitment.

Italy has suffered more than other Western European countries, due to the difficulty of mending the fractures produced by fascism, the weight of this subjection: both internally and in its relations with the Atlantic front in which it found itself inserted, willingly or unwillingly, due to its defeat. Beyond the judgment on membership of NATO, it is a fact that no alternative choice was practicable and that it entailed a limitation of sovereignty that has not been possible to denie, in the historiographical context, although on its weight there have been different evaluations.

This does not mean that the whole of Western (continental) Europe has not paid a price. Germany, above all, being divided into four occupation zones and recomposed (after having ceded territories) only almost half a century later, but even France, albeit to a lesser extent, being left out of the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences in 1945. It is no coincidence that we are talking about the three major founding countries of the European Union, to which Spain could only been added after the end of Francoism.

Can we say, now, that the countries that created the EU have fully come to terms with the change in the world structure brought about by the two World Wars ? That people are completely aware of it and that it has become a common acquisition, well embedded in their collective memory? Today Europeans are no longer sleepwalkers who are not fully aware of what they are doing as protagonists, nor fierce antagonists in a war that has involved the entire world around them. Today they are supporting actors in a secondary role: the protagonists are in the East and the West; Europe is in the middle but is no longer at the center.

Yet, Europe had been the cradle of the new universalistic culture: of equality and brotherhood as conditions for freedom, understood as emancipation from the domination of similar humans and from the state of necessity, in order to be able to pursue "happiness" (for the American Constitution) and "the full development of the personality" (for the Italian one). Nonetheless, Europe was not at the table where a world order built on those ideals was imagined and has remained a passive spectator when the leaders of the USA and UK took a path opposite to the one imagined - which had been laboriously taken in the thirty "glorious" years of the "golden age", between the end of the war and the Seventies - and when they have imposed that change by making it the economic and social paradigm for the Atlantic front, to compete with the entire globalized world.

Europe is therefore at a crossroads. The palliatives suggested by the best (Italian) minds of liberalist tradition, like Mario Draghi, do not even touch the heart of the problem. As long as we move within the bureaucratic intergovernmental structure, there is no recipe or economic direction that holds and the Europe of homelands will be destined to find itself, with respect to the world, in the condition in which Italy was when divided into small states while national states were being born in Europe. Land of conquest and geopolitical contest.

The call to the Homeland, which also tempts sectors of the left, is not without foundation if it means rediscovering in all its importance the weight of the historical-cultural roots of a people and their memory. It acts as a cement for a nation and gives the ethnos the positive value it deserves if one does not give in to racist and chauvinistic temptations. Furthermore, Italy would have much to boast of, in these circumstances, being able to contribute with its cultural tradition to a redefinition in current terms of the values of democracy, solidarity, freedom from want and exploitation.

On the opposite, the idea of a return to the dimension of national states would only be a condemnation of subjection and would take away from Europe the only weapon it can have at its disposal in the globalized world: the autonomy which, in a multipolar horizon, can allow it to exercise its role of architect and creator of a new world order, more solid and with a more coherent and effective structure than that of which the UN was an embryo: poorly developed, due to the too many limitations of its constitution. And autonomy, to return to the initial theme, could only entail a corresponding autonomous ability to defend its own independence. Autonomous, inevitably, from any other military alliance which would clearly be against the mission it would be called upon to carry out.

It should be absolutely clear that a political plan of this magnitude cannot arise from the political culture of European conservatism, which has now pervaded even the "moderate" left, of the veterans of the collapse of Soviet communism which also dragged social democracy with it. Furthermore, there isn’t on the horizon any political personnel suitable for such a task. The left of the 21st century is a building site under construction but from its ferments, if also younger generations are able to provide the contribution that is to be expected, the necessary conditions could emerge: time is running out, the next European elections do not seem destined to mark a substantial step forward and one must hope that they do not certify a collapse which would be fatal. The horror of the void, on the brink of the abyss, should lead to an acceleration of the commitment to a radical reversal of tr.

Giovanni Principe

Past senior researcher at ISAE (Istituto di Studi e Analisi Economiche) and Director General at ISFOL (Istituto Studi Formazione Orientamento Lavoratori) - From 1984 to 2002 member of the National Board of Direction in CGIL.