Work, Europe and Utopia – part ten by Henri Brugmans

10 Provisional Conclusions

Concluding this paper, it is clear that the “crisis” of the present time is not one of relatively short duration, to be struggled through as best we can. On the contrary, the persistence, in particular, of endemic unemployment which promises to remain with us for a long time, illustrates the gravity of the evils which confront us. It is more a matter of a cultural change, one of those historical transformations in which both the basic concepts and the organisational structures are challenged. We have sought to throw light on certain particular aspects, but we must admit that, in none of these areas, do we yet find ourselves faced with a genuine revival, or a bold attempt to tackle the roots of the problems. This absence of “leadership” which arises is all the more dangerous for our regime, our way of life, precisely because democracy cannot prosper without a sense of authority, without the certainty of being directed towards fixed goals. Where this need for effective authority is not satisfied there is the risk of nurturing desires for totalitarian dictatorship, of whatever political persuasion. It is relatively unimportant whether the new sensibility arises in one particular area or another. What is essential is that public opinion has a sense of clarity on the part of its leaders and will to achieve certain objectives = and that it feels itself affected, and is called upon to make its own contribution. In effect, democracy is not solely control of rulers by the people and their representatives; it is also policy clearly defined in terms of clear principles.

But if our society is afflicted with indecision, it is not a matter of one or another national society in particular. Certainly in one country the situation appears a little different than in another. One country has strenghts and weaknesses unknown to another. But on the whole all of us outside state-controlled Europe, in other words in the West, are in the same boat. The European Economic Community is the halting and provisional expression of this irreversible truth.

The E.E.C. had, in the beginning, two complementary objectives. In the first place it had to break down frontiers and customs barriers between member states. This task was called “negative integration”; it was accomplished after a fashion and in record time – even if the national governments continue to obstruct the process. But the second task, much more difficult to achieve, that of so-called “positive integration” – to achieve together what one could no longer do well in isolation – has scarcely been begun. Only agriculture was by virtue of the Treaty of Rome to become a community responsibility. But the broad policy which ought to have gone along with it has been engulfed in quarrels over prices, subsidies and production quotas. The result has been a state of affairs which greatly benefits the large producers, but hardly permits smaller ones to lead a decent life. In other sectors – industry, transport, finance – nothing or very little has been achieved in the way of introducing a common European administration.

It is thus for good reason that some people criticise the community for remaining “liberal” and for having removed the barriers which hindered commerce without having introduced the planning which would be necessary to give shape to a new solidarity. But these critics have been wrong to conclude from their findings that it is necessary to fall back upon “national solutions”.

The areas that suffer most from the absence of “leadership” are above all regional policy and, of particular concern to us here, social policy.

Undoubtedly, one could not say that nothing has been done. Italian migrant workers in another community country know something about this. The Treaty of Rome has enabled them to benefit immediately, in Germany or elsewhere, from all the social security legislation the enjoyment of which up until then was reserved for nationals. In addition, a certain harmonisation has been possible, generally in the direction of improvement. Workers from the less favoured countries and employers of more generous countries, had a common interest in raising the standards to the level of the best.

Nevertheless, no attempt has been made to outline the features of another type of society, specifically European in being at the one time different from Soviet state-control and American liberalism. On the other hand, employers have grasped much more quickly and more vigorously than the trade union movement, the opportunities and risks which European interation offered them. Certainly, there is a mass of workers organised at a European level, but up to now, it has scarcely defined a clear and convincing policy. It has really been more a case of an office which played a useful role in following events, rather than being boldly progressive. But this undoubtedly is no more than a beginning.

In conclusion, the existence of a federal union of Europe is scarcely justified if it does not lead to new forms of social organisation. Europeans do not aspire towards unity for its own sake, but towards the possibility of coming nearer to greater human justice. And further, they are beginning to understand, still vaguely, that all the promises which have been made to them in this respect are, as long as they remain within national frontiers, nothing more than electioneering demagogy. In short, there will be no Europe without a plan for the future. But there will be no plan for the future realisable unless adequate continental space is available.

In effect, (what we have been saying unceasingly (=continuously) in the course of this paper): the reconstruction of our structures is inconceivable in a single country, because every country infatuated (inspired with an intense but short lived passion) with progress always risks endangering its competitive position. If it is to embark upon reconstruction and break out of its lethargy, Europe must act as a whole. Undoubtedly, small-scale experiments will still be necessary and Roosevelt was right to say, as he once did, that every state of the Union was a laboratory in the matter of its own legislation. But when it comes to applying the results of this experimentation the costs are such that they must be assumed collectively. The European Community constitues the smallest workable unit in this respect.

In short the existence of national states hungry for absolute power condemns us nowadays to impotence, and constitutes a major barrier on the way to progress. It is possible that even Europe is not suffieciently large of an entity; perhaps we should be thinking instead of the O.E.C.D. countries, which also include North America and Japan. Jean-Francois Deniau was right to point out in Europe without Power that there will never be a purely “European” economy: we will always have to pay the utmost attention to the Dollar and the Yen.

This being the case, the concept of a “national economy” is, a forteriori, meaningless. But if Europe’s originality is not to be found in the economic realm, it is certainly outstanding in the cultural. If Eurpe is anything it is a unique civilisation, and this uniqueness is most apparent in its social structure. Some essential industrial technology is the same everywhere, but workers’ aspirations are very different in Osaka and Pittsburgh from what they are in Essen or the suburbs of Paris.

This European civilisation is possibly no better than the others. But, undoubtedly, it has a role to play in a world seeking to bring about some form of international agreement, involving Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R., the United States, Black Africa, the Arab countries, Latin America, South-East Asia. Within each of these land masses, there will be different degrees of private- and public ownership, but everywhere there will be problems which demand immediate attention. In the future, no one would tolerate the disgrace of famine and the injustice of entire peoples exploited by more powerful forces. Europe could take the lead in this debate, but cannot hope to do so as long as nationalism among European states remains the governing law.

A vision such as this of a world finally peaceful and united could not have come to the Euroepans of the 1930s. No one, in fact, ever dreamt of it. Despite the terrible poverty of the unemployed at that time the crisis then remained relatively limited. It did not yet involve the whole world and was of relatively short duration. There was soon an upturn of the business cycle and the new Keynesian policy of deficit spending could produce spectacular results, much to the amazement of classical economists. In 1933, Hitler, having come to power, had already the good fortune of an assured economic revival, and war preparations did the rest. In the United Staes, Roosevelt made some lasting innovations by setting up a social security system which, although subsequently modified, was never abolished.

Today it is a different story. Keynesian economics produces nothing but inflation. The slight recovery, tentatively announced every so often, does not reduce the enormous number of unemployed in Europe. It is a collective reappraisal that is needed from Europeans, lest (with the intension of preventing) otherwise they slide gently towards the gilded (false brilliance) poverty of civilisations which have lost the chance of recovery.

It is far from certain whether Europeans, exhausted by their wars and their failures, will have nough energy to embark upon such an undertaking. All that can be said for sure is a renaissance will never be achieved without a plausible utopia, without the “leap in the dark” which Robert Schuman was brave enough to inaugurate, in his declaration of 9 May 1950. They were then talking about coal and steel, which were still thought to be the basis of the modern economy. But, at the end of the day, those pioneers were not simply interested in these particular products but in giving a boost to the European ideal.

It is in this spirit that this paper has been written. It cotains no ready-made solutions, but is intended to make the reader reflect upon the problems that face us in the future.


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